Toulouse beat BO to enjoy sweet smell of fourth title

Biarritz 19 Toulouse 21: Biarritz score only try in close final but giants of French rugby are happy to kick their way to victory

A late flourish featuring the dash of the American flyer Takudzwa Ngwenya could not quite unseat the aristocrats of French and European rugby, as Toulouse won their fourth Heineken Cup with a display of strength and intelligence in Paris. No other team has even won three.

With a nine-point lead and eight minutes remaining Toulouse were rocked by a try from Biarritz's Australian rugby league recruit, Karmichael Hunt. But poor Ngwenya, who had been well shackled up to that point, had to take defeat on the chin, literally, finishing with a bloody bandage round a cut under the mouth from an accidental clash of heads.

On a hot afternoon when the Biarritz Olympique chant of "BO, BO", might have been a cry for help, it was not simply a French championship final with a European branding. It was colourful and noisy behind each goal but the Clermont v Perpignan Top 14 final here next Saturday will be more wholly partisan. Among the sprinkling of British and Irish jerseys yesterday, worn by those who bought tickets in hope, earlier in the competition, Gloucester and Munster red mingled with the rouge of the Toulousains and Biarrots. The only anglos on the pitch were Iain Balshaw and Magnus Lund (the Norwegian turned England flanker) in the Biarritz side and the referee, Wayne Barnes, and his touch judges. How amusing in these days of financial angst in the eurozone to have an English lawyer blowing the whistle.

Not that Toulouse and Biarritz are short of cash; they have a combined estimated turnover of €45million, (£39.4m) and despite finishing fourth and seventh in the French league they are both in the top six of European rankings and will head a pool each next season, with Munster, Leicester, Leinster and Bath.

Money can't always buy tries, though, and all the first-half points came from kicks. Five out of the six rows of the packs were multi-national, but Toulouse's all-French front row drew two first-half penalties from the opposition with huge wheels. David Skrela hit a post with the first but the second went over from 40 metres after 31 minutes and at that stage Biarritz led 9-6. Their stick-legged goal-kicker, Dimitri Yachvili, has done for England a couple of times down the years and he landed 35-metre kicks after three, 16 and 28 minuteswith that familiarly nonchalant swipe of the left boot.

But Skrela levelled on 35 minutes and Florian Fritz dropped a goal which needed Barnes's compatriot in the stand, the TV match official, Graham Hughes, to confirm it had richocheted over the bar.

At the tackle area the Biarritz back-row, Lund, Wenceslas Lauret and Imanol Harinordoquy – the last looking like the Phantom of the Opera with white bandaging to protect his broken nose – helped force half a dozen knock-ons out of Toulouse and although a break from Fritz after 33 minutes threatened to open the Basques up and it needed a wide arc by Balshaw to cut Maxime Médard down, the attack finished with a midfield spill by Clément Poitrenaud.

Needless to say, Toulouse did some timber-felling of their own. Their captain, Thierry Dusautoir, is a one-man seek-and-destroy system and his faultless positioning snuffed several Biarritz raids out at source. They had one early go at releasing Ngwenya, but he ran into the giant Romain Millo-Chluski before the wheels had got turning.

With a 12-9 lead and a stronger bench to call on, Toulouse had it in their own hands, or at their feet, as it turned out. Poitrenaud had tossed away a Heineken Cup, dithering at Twickenham in 2004 to let in Wasps' Rob Howley, and his team-mate Médard mucked up a try after 46 minutes. Fritz, Shaun Sowerby, Patricio Albacete and Dusautoir drove into the Biarritz 22 and the man of the match, William Servat – a master at the "yards after contact", as American football calls it – rattled onwards. But when Skrela flashed a miss-pass right to left Médard, who had the flanker Jean Bouilhou free outside him, fumbled it.

It looked like an error badly compounded when Albacete went to the sin-bin very soon after. A Toulouse line-out was caught at the tail by Benoît August and the Biarritz hooker ran and punted to the opposition 22, where Albacete hauled him down before he could gather the ball. Yachvili's penalty made it 12-12 but Toulouse refocused and did what was necessary, a man down. After 51 and 55 minutes they worked drop-goal positions from which Skrela, twisting his body awkwardly in the first instance and acting gloriously smoothly from 40 metres in the second, booted six points. What a cruel reminder for Biarritz of the absence through injury of Damien Traille, the drop-goal destroyer of the Ospreys in the quarter-finals.

Vincent Clerc came close to a try for Toulouse and the Biarritz scramble conceded a penalty that was kicked from wide out by Skrela. He pushed a further attempt wide after a terrifyingly punishing straight push at the scrum, which by now had the replacements Daan Human and Cencus Johnston in it for Toulouse. But just when it seemed Basque hopes were gone, Arnaud Mignardi beat a double-tackle to free Ngwenya in the 73rd minute and his inside pass sent Hunt racing to the posts. Yachvili's replacement, Valentin Courrent, converted. A gallop by Balshaw in the next Biarritz attack threatened more of the same, but not quite. Toulouse held out and Biarritz, as in their previous final, against Munster in 2006, were beaten.

Biarritz Olympique I Balshaw; T Ngwenya, A Mignardi, K Hunt, J-B Gobelet (P Bidabé, 58); J Peyrelongue, D Yachvili (V Courrent, 70); E Coetzee (F Barcella, 49), B August (R Terrain, 67), C Johnstone, J Thion (capt), T Hall (M Carizza, 59), M Lund, I Harinordoquy, W Lauret (F Faure, 59).

Stade Toulousain C Poitrenaud (C Heymans, 67); V Clerc, F Fritz (Y David, 70), Y Jauzion, M Médard; D Skrela, B Kelleher; J-B Poux (D Human, 60), W Servat (A Vernet Basualdo, 72), B Lecouls (C Johnston, 63), R Millo-Chluski (Y Maestri, 58), P Albacete, J Bouilhou, S Sowerby (L Picamoles, 70), T Dusautoir (capt).

Referee W Barnes (England).


general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before