Leicester were knocked for six yesterday by the Kiwi boot of the Toulouse stand-off Luke McAlister, most of whose half- dozen penalties were fired in from long range, while an individual flash of brilliance from a teenager cooked the Tigers' goose.
But there will be some searching analysis this week at Welford Road for a side which, at times, was easily able to hold its own and prevent Toulouse from putting together any sustained strategy. A frustrated Richard Cockerill could only imitate a Gallic shrug afterwards – he had practice at that when coaching at Clermont Auvergne.
The visitors failed to take chances, failed to control the ball and, as Cockerill said of Toulouse, "they will do damage – that's what they do". The coach added: "They can hurt you. It's a bit disappointing, making the wrong calls at the wrong time and making little errors." He felt Leicester were winning the contest at half-time, despite trailing by 11-9.
But after the interval when Toulouse switched their game to kicking for pressure and territory, the Tigers' game dissolved as the weather turned miserable. This was no soft European opener for either side in Pool Two. Both are establishing early-season platforms in their own domestic leagues, Toulouse lying second to the braggadocio brigade from Toulon,
The long-serving Toulouse director of rugby, Guy Noves, had said he would pick players willing to experiment. For the 18-year old inside centre Gaël Fickou he dropped outright the admittedly aging but vastly experienced Yannick Jauzion, as he also wanted six of his eight replacements to be forwards. For Noves, muscle and power are not experimental.
Against that, his captain Thierry Dusautoir was making his 52nd Heineken appearance and his full-back Clément Poitrenaud his 76th – and there was a big cheer when Jean Builhou came off the bench to equal the record of 81 set by Fabien Pelous.
Noves later said that the game had been much harder than expected, that his side had spilled far too much ball, and that there had been some hard talking at half-time. Indeed, Leicester did not score at all in the second half.
For all but three minutes of the first half his team-in-transition did not look to be heading anywhere.It would be a rare day when anyone could sweep Leicester aside, but the lack of invention could not all be put down to either the silly mistakes from Toulouse in attack or the obstinate defence.
The faith put into Fickou paid off after 37 minutes with a pick, kick and chase for a try in which the teenager outpaced his opposite number, Anthony Allen. It also meant that, while Leicester had profited by only three points when Toby Flood kicked his third penalty – from a yard inside his own half – Toulouse had picked up five with prop Gurthro Steenkamp still in the sin bin for impeding a kick-off.
After the break Toulouse finally turned on the power as Leicester wilted. As McAlister fired in his penalties the Tigers lost all hope of even scraping a losing bonus. Indeed, they were lucky not to ship two more tries from Fickou and Yohann Huget.
Toulouse: Try Fickou; Penalties McAlister 6. Leicester: Penalties Flood 3.
Toulouse Poitrenaud; Clerc, Fritz, Fickou, Huget (Matanavou, 75); McAlister, Doussain (Burgess, 71); Steenkamp (Poux, 57), Botha (Tolofua, 57), Johnston (Guillamon, 75), Millo-Chluski (Albacete, 57), Maestri, Nyanga (Bouilhou, 57), Dusautoir (capt), L Picamoles (Poux, 33-38; Lamboley, 71).
Leicester Hamilton; Morris (Smith, 73), Tuilagi, Allen, Goneva; Flood, B Youngs; Mulipola, T Youngs, Cole (Castrogiovanni, 57), Kitchener (Slater, 57), Parling, Mafi (Thorpe, 75), Waldrom, Crane (capt).
Referee N Owens (Wales).