Toulouse 21 Saracens 11 match report: Saracens’ approach founders on the boot of Jean-Marc Doussain

Second-half was a true contest of will and power on a spring-like day

Stade Ernest-Wallon

Seven penalties from Jean-Marc Doussain sank Saracens’ hopes of a home game at Allianz Park in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup but, unless something disastrous happens in their final game against Connacht this weekend, they will be in the top eight when the knockout draw is made.

It is provocative to describe Saracens as subdued, but that is what they were in the second half of a game which produced only one try but was a true contest of will and power on a spring-like day.

When Sarries took their bow at the end, as Toulouse walked their way through a lap of honour, heads were not down. But there was not even the consolation of a losing bonus point, which was all they had salvaged when losing by one point to Toulouse at home in October. And, when they lost Mako Vunipola to the sin-bin for 10 minutes midway through the second half, exchanges were even at three points each.  

Mark McCall, the Saracens coach, acknowledged that Toulouse had the ability to raise their game – though not when losing to Connacht at home – and the top team in the English table had clearly come second.

But McCall, while paying tribute to the work done by a truly impressive Toulouse back row trio, said he still felt he had a squad which could go all the way in the European Cup. There are some gnarly old campaigners in that band of brothers, but also some younger talent coming through well.

It took referee Alain Rolland just 20 seconds to award the first penalty to Toulouse, and Doussain just a few more to give his side the lead, but the remainder of the opening exchanges belonged to the visitors as they battered their way upfield. The first of some rugged passages of defence for both sides was under way.

And the first blood went to Saracens. Their pack had the better of the exchanges throughout the first half and a sniping run by Chris Ashton also gave them what proved to be the game’s only try. The sell-out crowd, with the exception of the few travelling members of the Fez tendency, did not like that.

In a rapier-versus-broadsword battle, the Toulousains made some seriously threatening runs to the Saracens line only to be stopped, sometimes to the whistling disdain of the crowd, in less than legal fashion. In one run down the left wing Hosea Gear left Ashton for dead; Yoann Huget was his tantalisingly mercurial self; and Clément Poitrenaud, filling the gap left in the centre by Florian Fritz, out with a broken arm from a motorcycle accident, was another who could complain of illegal blocking when chasing the ball. Clearly Rolland did not agree.

Englandfly-half Owen Farrell gave Saracens back the lead with a 27th-minute penalty but the third and fourth of Doussain’s kicks gave the four-time European champions a four-point lead at half time.

The second 40 minutes were worth a huge amount of money to both sides. Each team knew a win would almost certainly guarantee a home quarter-final. With all the funding that should generate, that could add up to a million-pound game with the mouthwatering prospect of more to come.

It might not repay Nigel Wray for all the money he has poured into Saracens  over the years. It would allow Toulouse coach Guy Novès, often pacing the line on his own, looking like Captain Ahab urging his men to kill the whale of opposition, easily to contemplate inking in a transfer agreement for Toby Flood.

“It was a very good performance,” Novès said. “Very physical. A true match.”

Not that he is likely to take his foot off the pedal for the final match, away to Zebre in Italy. A win with a four-try bonus point would be icing on the cake in a three-week run that began with a Toulousain victory over Clermont Auvergne.

When Saracens entertain Connacht, they will be equally determined not to take anything for granted.

Scorers: Toulouse – Penalties: Doussain 7. Saracens – Try: Ashton. Penalties: Farrell 2.

Toulouse: M Médard; Y Huget, Y David (rep. G Fickou 48) , C Poitrenaud, H Gear; J-M Doussain, J Vermaak (rep S Bezy, 79); S Ferreira, C Ralepelle (rep C Tolofua 65), C Johnston (rep G Steenkamp, 60), Y Maestri (rep R Millo-Chluski, 60), P Albacete, Y Nyanga, T Dusautoir Cap (repI Tekori, 77)), L Picamoles.

Saracens: A Goode; C Ashton, C Wyles (rep D Taylor 55), B Barritt, D Strettle; O Farrell (rep C Hodgson, 68), N de Kock (rep R Wigglesworth, 51); M Vunipola, S Brits (rep J Gworge, 71), J Johnston, S Borthwick (Capt), A Hargreaves (rep G Kruis, 51), J Wray (rep E Jooubert, 55), K Brown, B Vunipola.

Referee: A Rolland

Attendance: 18,838

Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on TV
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives in the rain during the qualifying session of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai
sport
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
The North Korean TV advert for Taedonggang beer, that became a YouTube hit
food + drinkAnd what did it take to set up a taste test back in Wiltshire?
Arts & Entertainment
filmLife for Leslie Mann's can be challenging sometimes
Voices
For music lovers: John Cusack with his vinyl collection in 'High Fidelity'
voices...but don't forget rest of the year
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit