Toulouse 19 Wasps 13: Michalak's brilliance undoes negative Wasps

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The Independent Online

Supping at the highest table can give you a taste for such fare. Much to Wasps' chagrin, defeat in Toulouse ended their European pretensions for this season. Their diet is now domestic.

Wasps rued a loose, ill-disciplined first quarter when they conceded penalties and turned over possession, allowing Frédéric Michalak to open them up for a wonderful try from 90 metres. Gareth Thomas, who limped off injured after half-time, finished it but the French backs crafted it. A 13-0 lead after 14 minutes was decisive, even though Wasps scored a try right on half-time. Goal-kicking did the rest.

As Joe Worsley said: "It shows character to come back and dominate a large part of the game after a start like that. We all live for games like this. It was really good fun although we lost. It lived up to expectations."

The England flanker rated it as a higher standard than most games in the Six Nations Championship. That is the triumph of the Heineken Cup.

Creditably, Wasps re-organised their defence after so poor a start and competed mightily, denying Toulouse sustained forward momentum. But they created comparatively little going forward and might have played much of the match with 14 or 13 men.

Josh Lewsey held back Florian Fritz and then started fighting with him when the Frenchman objected. Moments later, with Toulouse poised to score, Lawrence Dallaglio rumbled round the wrong side of the ruck, wilfully offside. Both were blatant yellow-card offences yet Nigel Owens punished neither, except with penalties. Fritz was later sent to the sin bin for deliberate offside and the Wasps prop Tim Payne followed for foul play.

Wasps were constantly offside. Toulouse did the same, with the result that neither side could gain fast ball. The French tried to put pace on their game while the English defended doggedly. Something very similar may ensue when England go to Paris.

"Toulouse are masters of the qualification process," said Dallaglio afterwards. "We have always felt we can beat them but we didn't take advantage of the periods of domination we had in the game."

Worsley looked ahead to the Six Nations. What he said was revealing about the England management post-Sir Clive Woodward: "I will be a lot happier under this regime than the previous one. With Andy Robinson you get a lot of freedom to say what you want to do. Previously, it was a teacher-pupil relationship and you were being dictated to."

Toulouse: Try Thomas; Conversion Elissalde; Penalties Elissalde 4. Wasps: Try Ibañez; Conversion Van Gisbergen; Penalties Van Gisbergen 2.

Toulouse: G Thomas (J-F Dubois, 49); V Clerc, Y Jauzion, F Fritz, X Garbajosa; F Michalak, J-B Elissalde; J-B Poux, Y Bru (capt), O Hasan (D Human, 74), F Pelous, T Brennan, J Bouilhou, Y Nyanga (I Maka, 35-40), F Maka (I Maka, 41).

Wasps: M van Gisbergen; P Sackey (A Erinle, 74), J Lewsey, S Abbott, T Voyce; J Staunton, M Dawson (E Reddan, 20-30); A Mackenzie, R Ibañez (J Barret, 52-62), T Payne, S Shaw (R Birkett, 70), G Skivington, J Worsley, J O'Connor (J Hart, 67), L Dallaglio (capt).

Referee: N Owens (Wales).