Taione calls time on Toulouse

Newcastle 42 Toulouse 9
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The Independent Online

It has taken Newcastle time to make their mark in the Heineken Cup, but they broke their duck with a breathless display of running and selfless support play in an electric second half at Kingston Park, sparked by the kicking of Jonny Wilkinson, who contributed 27 points from six penalties, three conversions and a dropped-goal. The man-of-the-match was Newcastle's winger-turned flanker, Epeli Taione who set up two of the Falcons' three tries and scored the last one himself with a rampaging run which left a trail of Toulouse defenders in his wake.

It was all so different from a first half in which defences held sway and Toulouse looked ponderous and unimaginative, in the face of some determined Newcastle tackling. In this regard, none did better than Jon Dunbar or Andrew Mower in a tireless back row while wider out, Jamie Noon and Tom May never shirked the unglamorous stuff to keep Xavier Garbojosa and Emile Ntmack at bay. While it was fairly dour stuff until Newcastle cut loose after the break, Wilkinson kept Newcastle's nose in front with the boot.

While these matches are of interest for their own sake, enabling clubs to test themselves against unfamiliar opposition, the tournament is almost at the stage where clubs know if they are going to progress to the quarter-finals in January. For the past two seasons no club has completed the pool stages unbeaten, though that scenario seems unlikely to be repeated this year, making it increasingly difficult to predict which of the two best runners-up will join the six pool winners in the new year.

With tries scored being used to break any ties where clubs are level on match points Toulouse, having scored eight tries in their previous three games – five against Newcastle last weekend – needed to make up ground on Cardiff, with 10 touchdowns, who play Glasgow today, and free-scoring Castres, who are best of the second-placed teams. But defeat at Kingston Park ended the French champions' interest in the competition.

Having been comprehensively outplayed in France, Newcastle were much changed. In came Wilkinson, Scotland lock Stuart Grimes, and Mower, who looks certain to win his first cap for Scotland, against Tonga, next Saturday.

To some extent it did the trick, as Newcastle were surer in the tackle and safer with the ball in hand. They also had Wilkinson in his brilliant best kicking form. Anywhere in his opponent's half was within range for the England outside-half before the interval, when he never looked as if he would miss. He did, though, twice. Newcastle, however, found more productive means of scoring as the tries began to arrive. First it was Hugh Vyvyan after Taione had surged upfield from 55 metres. Then Taione broke up the left side for try number two. With Vyvyan in support, the lock looked inside for the supporting Michael Stephenson to touch down.

Taione then went on his own for the final blockbuster from 50 metres, swatting away tacklers as if they were flies. Wilkinson had dropped his goal, converted with aplomb and Toulouse's dreams of European glory were in tatters.

Newcastle: D Walder; M Stephenson, J Noon (V Tuigamala 29-32), T May, L Botham (Tuigamala 73); J Wilkinson (capt), H Charlton (G Armstrong 73); M Ward (I Peel 51), N Makin (C Balshen 63), M Hurter, H Vyvyan, S Grimes (D Weir 73), E Taione, A Mower (R Devonshire 65), J Dunbar (P Lam).

Toulouse: C Poitrenaud; M Marfaing (N Jean Jean h-t), X Garbajosa, E Ntamack C Heymans; F Michalak, J Fillol; A Lo Cicero (C Soulette 56), Y Bru (W Servat 68), F Tournaire, D Gerard, F Pelous (capt; F Belot 62), C Labit (F Maka 56), S Dispagne (D Lacroix 45), I Maka.

Referee: R Dickson (Scotland).

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