Toulouse all-stars fail to maximise Médard's tries

Newport-Gwent 13 Toulouse 26
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The Independent Online

Toulouse turned up with an all-international XV and six more caps on the bench, which was predictably effective. The three-time Heineken Cup winners did, however, miss out on a bonus point, the relevance of which may not be known until they go to Bath for the final Pool Five match next month.

The old Newport club once fielded a team of 15 internationals, but that was in 1921 and the Dragons no longer whistle up hard Gwent forwards from the coalface or the pubs by the docks. Nevertheless their mix of yeoman Welsh and itinerant New Zealanders made this a decent tussle.

Toulouse led 16-0 after 27 minutes, their sole inconvenience being the fly-half David Skrela's groin injury after he slipped on the wet turf. There was Maxime Médard's try, converted by Skrela, then two penalties and a drop goal by Skrela's replacement, Fréddy Michalak. Not a bad stand-in.

For the remainder of the first half the Dragons did well at the tackle and after 31 minutes they had a try from a line-out. Joe Bearman, a Cornish No 8 who will be Wales-qualified next year, tapped off the top and Colin Charvis fed Rhys Thomas on the peel. The tighthead prop galloped to the line with Michalak none too keen to get in the way. James Arlidge, a Kiwi who has played for Japan, converted, and a mirror image of the move on the other wing almost brought Thomas another try four minutes later. A penalty by Arlidge made it 16-10 to Toulouse at half-time and the crowd, who hadn't seen a regional match in nine weeks, were glad they'd turned up.

It was, in truth, a hiatus. The busy Toulouse centre Florian Fritz helped set up Cédric Heymans for a try at the corner three minutes into the second half, and although Patricio Albacete's hands in a ruck allowed Arlidge a second penalty, Toulouse were soon 13 points clear. Médard scored from another neat chip and chase and Michalak's two missed conversions didn't matter.

Toulouse had 25 minutes to get the bonus point. They had attacking scrums which came to nothing and if anything the home side, whose Australian centre Marc Stcherbina was able to attend in a neck brace after the injury he suffered in last week's fixture in France, finished the stronger. But the pool table and bank balances do not lie. The Dragons are out, leaving Toulouse to carry on among the boys with the bigger budgets.

Newport-Gwent Dragons: J Tovey; G Wyatt, R Sidey, A Smith, T Selley (R Gomer-Davies, 53); J Arlidge, W Evans (R Lewis, 59); A Black, T Willis (capt; S Jones, 73), R Thomas (G Robinson, 73), A Jones (D Lydiate, 63), L Charteris, H MacDonald, J Bearman, C Charvis (J Ringer, 59).

Toulouse: C Poitrenaud; M Médard (G du Toit, 74), F Fritz, Y Jauzion (capt), C Heymans; D Skrela (F Michalak, 8), B Kelleher; J-B Poux (D Human, 44), W Servat (V Lacombe, 72), B Lecouls (S Perugini, 50), F Pelous (G Lamboley, 65), P Albacete, Y Nyanga (J Bouilhou, 55), S Sowerby, T Dusautoir.

Referee: A Rolland (Ireland).