The Heineken Cup final might have been a personal affair for the French but it was a wicked Irish wind that was the dominant force at Lansdowne Road. Whoever handled it best deserved to win and there's no doubt that Toulouse made the more telling use of it.
Perpignan will probably look back on the game and see it as an opportunity lost and, certainly, their Australian outside-half Manny Edmonds has had many better days.
Indeed, if he had played well and made the right decisions I feel that Perpignan would have won.
But Toulouse were quicker on the uptake and made sure Edmonds did not have a comfortable ride, so you cannot deny them the fruits of a hard-won victory. They were always that little bit ahead. Even at the end, when Perpignan were hitting them with everything to get within seven points, Toulouse's Yann Delaigue banged over a late penalty to put the margin beyond reach.
When you consider that Toulouse scored points with the wind and against it, it's difficult to argue. The result was really decided in the first half, when Toulouse ran up a 19-0 lead with the wind at their backs. A wind of that force spoils games much more than rain does, and when you are playing against it you must concentrate on keeping the ball, because possession is the only thing that will save you.
Perpignan did that part very well, and their giant pack made regular inroads into Toulouse territory. But every time they failed to make their presence tell on the scoreboard.
They could have opted to kick two penalties from good positions which, even against the wind, would have brought them six points. They elected instead to go for the catch and drive. But on each occasion they fouled up the line-outs. Not only did Perpignan make the wrong decisions and show too much indiscipline at that stage, they also made themselves vulnerable to having the ball belted back downfield.
It was from one of these retreats that Toulouse scored their try. Straight from a line-out, Toulouse's massive centre Yannick Jauzion handed off Edmonds as if he was a rag doll and put Vincent Clerc away for a try. Had Perpignan reached the interval trailing by 12 points or fewer you could have fancied their chances but, strong as it was, it wasn't a 19-point wind. Obviously, they then played a lot better and Edmonds began to rattle over the penalties, but they were always overstretching themselves, and move after move was ruined by frantic handling.
The Toulouse forwards were always up against it, but they put in a tremendous effort to prevent themselves from being totally dominated. That meant that Edmonds was robbed of the comfortable ride he is used to. He showed great vision when he kicked for Pascal Bomati's late try, but it was all over by then. The Toulouse outside-backs used their speed brilliantly in defence and the strength of the tackling made them look impregnable. Christian Labit was named man of the match, but Trevor Brennan caught the eye with a mighty first half on his home soil.
I am sure there were a few teams looking on wistfully yesterday as the French divided the spoils of the European Cup among themselves. The English clubs were a great disappointment.
Llanelli will still look back on the sending-off of Dafydd Jones that lost them their quarter-final, and Leinster and Munster can spend the summer kicking themselves that at least one of them wasn't in action yesterday.Reuse content