Toulouse 34 Edinburgh 10: Clerc goes to town as Toulouse canter through

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A performance of fluidity and continuity by Toulouse proved comfortably beyond the containing powers of Edinburgh as the French maestros duly confirmed their place in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals. This was not Toulouse at their absolute best, yet their performance was still an obvious warning sign to the other teams in the last eight.

Edinburgh's enhanced resolve and improved performances under coach Andy Robinson, which were good enough to dump Leicester out of the competition last week, have been encouraging signs for Scottish rugby with the Six Nations nigh. But they were ineffectual against the pace Toulouse generated on a dry, spring-like afternoon at the Stade Ernest Wallon.

Those attempting to frustrate Toulouse must first eliminate errors of their own. Edinburgh singularly failed to do so, and their obvious weakness in the scrum, where Gavin Kerr had a rough ride at the hands of the South African Daan Human, hardly helped their cause.

The French championship leaders' constant innovation and enterprise plus their speed put them on a platform significantlyhigher than Edinburgh could ever hope to achieve. Robinson's men were committed, neat and tidy in most of their play but when they erred, Toulouse struck with brutal efficiency. Their finishing was exemplary, their confidence unchecked for all Edinburgh's worthy efforts.

It will be one of the most fascinating aspects of the forthcoming Six Nations see whether the new French coach, Marc Lièvremont, is willing to let traditional French rugby panache breathe again. Under Bernard Laporte it atrophied, but Toul-ouse reminded us here that, if offered the right encouragement and guidance, it remains a highlypotent remedy to combat today's iron-gate defences.

Toulouse offered the basic requirements of contemporary rugby but they brought more, much more, with players thinking on their feet, plotting and attempting the unexpected. It didn't always work but the sparks were unmistakably there.

Initially, Edinburgh appeared to have weathered the early storm that brought a ninth-minute try for Vincent Clerc, the most lethal finisher in European rugby. Thierry Dusautoir seized a wayward Toulouse line-out throw in his own 22 and stormed upfield. Florian Fritz took it on and kicked to the line. When Toulouse recycled rapidly, Jean- Baptiste Elissalde planted a crosskick into the hands of Clerc, who scored with no one within 20 metres of him. Elissalde's conversion and earlier penalty made it 10-0 in the ninth minute, agrim warning.

But Edinburgh had stemmed the tide, indeed reduced the margin with the neat Phil Godman's 29th-minute penalty, until the barriers broke either side of half-time. As an Edinburgh scrum disintegrated in their own 22, Elissalde slid the ball over the line for Clerc to score and then Edinburgh gave it away. The lively Ben Meyer broke downfield but when the ball went to ground, Simon Webster flung it off the floor into the arms of Fritz, who steamed 70 metres to score. Then, 10 minutes after the restart, Clement Poitrenaud burst through the midfield and, although the wing Yves Donguy thrice juggled the pass, he held on to race over. For Edinburgh, 29-3 meant it was all over.

Toulouse's concentration and rhythm wavered thereafter, the decline hastened by a flood of substitutes. But Salvatore Perugini rumbled over for Toulouse's fifth try from short range and they were within inches of more tries. But Edinburgh did break the shackles when Hugo Southwell, Andrew Turnbull and David Blair combined in a 75-yard movement to send the industrious lock Ben Gissing over under the posts. Edinburgh deserved it for spirit, but spirit alonecannot tame the best.

Toulouse: C Heymans; V Clerc, F Fritz (M Kunavore, 66), C Poitrenaud, Y Donguy; G Du Toit,J-B Elissalde (B Kelleher, 47); D Human (J-B Poux, 47), W Servat (A Basualdo, 47), S Perugini(D Human, 71), F Pelous, R Millo-Chluski (GLamboley, 47), J Bouilhou (capt), T Dusautoir(Y Nyanga, 61), S Sowerby (F Maka, 54).

Edinburgh: H Southwell; B Cairns (A Turnbull, 61), C MacRae, J Houston, S Webster; P Godman (D Blair, 71), B Meyer (G Laidlaw, 61); A Allori, A Kelly (S Lawrie, 76), G Kerr (C Smith, 57), M Mustchin (C Hamilton, 57), B Gissing, A MacDonald (R Reid, 61), R Rennie, A Hogg (capt).

Referee: D Pearson (England).

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