Leicester outplayed by Toulouse in Heineken Cup opener

Toulouse 23 Leicester 9


The Tigers were knocked for six by the Kiwi boot of Toulouse stand-off Luke McAlister as he fired half a dozen penalties, most of them from long range, though his increasingly daunted opponents’ posts. Add to that an individual flash of brilliance and the Leicester goose was cooked.

There will be some uncompromising analysis in the coming week up 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 has had some practice when coaching at Clermont Auvergne.

They had failed to take some chances, failed to control the ball, and “they will do damage, that’s what they do,” he said of Toulouse. “They can hurt you. It’s a bit disappointing when making the wrong calls at the wrong time and making little errors.”  He felt his side was winning the game at half time, even though they were 11-9 down at the time.

But when the home side switched its game at half time to kicking for pressure and territory the Midlanders’ game dissolved as the weather turned miserable  

This was no easy European opener for either side. Both are establishing early season platforms in their domestic leagues, Toulouse lying second to the braggadocio brigade from Toulon, Leicester lying third to Northampton and Quins.

The long-serving Toulouse director of rugby, Guy Noves, had promised to restore the faith of the fans after having been bundled out at the quarter final stage in Edinburgh and also saying he preferred to pick players who were willing to experiment.

True in the case of the 18-year old inside centre Gaël Fickou for whom he did not just relegate the admittedly aging but vastly experienced Yannick Jauzion to the bench, he dumped Jauzion completely as he wanted six of his eight replacements to be forwards. For Noves, muscle and power are not experimental.

Nor was having so many players with so many Hieneken appearances in the line-up. The captain, Thierry Dusautoir, was making only his 52nd, while full-back Clément Poitrenaud was on his 76th and there was a special cheer when Jean Builhou came on as a replacement to equal the record of 81 set up by his former captain, Fabien Pelous.

Afterwards he said that the game had been much harder than expected, that they had simply spilled far too much ball, and that there had been some hard talking at half time. Leicester did not score a single point in the second half.

But if this is a side which knows it is in transition – and it has the budget to plan with confidence – it is also a side with its eyes fixed firmly on the present. And the present, for all but three minutes of the first half, did not look very glittering or very powerful.

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 an obstinate defence which was not in the business of handing out soft giveaways.

The faith put into Fickou paid off after 37 minutes with a pick, kick and chase for a try which saw the young man outpace his opposite number Anthony Allen. It also meant that, while Leicester had profited by only three points when Toby Flood kicked his third penalty, this one from a yard and a half inside his own half, Toulouse had picked up five with prop Gurthro Steenkamp still in the bin for impeding a kick-off.

It had kept a not quite full stadium unusually quiet for long periods, though at least the threatening clouds, which had been delivering occasional pulses of fine drizzle turned off before the kick-off.

After the second half kick-off, Toulouse finally turned on the power as Leicester wilted under the scoreboard draining away any hope not just of pulling off a miracle win but even of scraping a losing bonus. They were lucky not to see two more tries from Fickou and Yohann Huget.

With Leicester at home to Ospreys for their second Pool 2 game, Toulouse travel to Treviso, the French three-times European champions are starting to build another platform.    

Scorers:Try, Fickou; Conv; Pens. McAlister (6): Drop goal;

TOULOUSE:C Poitrenaud; V Clerc, F Fritz, G Fickou, Y Huget (rep. T Matanavou, 75); L McAlister, J-M Doussain (rep. L Burgess, 71); G Steenkamp (rep J-B Poux, 57), G Botha (rep C Tolofua,57), C Johnston (rep. A Guillamon, 75), R Millo-Chluski (rep P Albacete, 57), Y Maestri, Y Nyanga (rep J Bouilhou, 57), T Dusautoir (Capt), L Picamoles (rep  J-B Poux, 33-38 and G Lamboley, 71).  

Scorers: Try; Conv; Pens. Flood (3); Drop goal;

LEICESTER: S Hamilton; N Morris (rep. M Smith, 73), M Tuilagi, A Allen, V Goneva; T Flood, B Youngs; L Mulipola, T Youngs, D Cole (rep M Castrogiovanni, 57), G Kitchener (rep E Slater, 57), G Parling, S Mafi (rep. R Thorpe, 75), T Waldrom, J Crane (Capt).

Referee; N Owens (Wales)


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent