Toulouse opt for bludgeon not rapier

Toulouse 25 - Northampton 12
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The Independent Online

The Toulousains duly avenged their unlikely defeat of a week before, comprehensively lead Pool Three of the Heineken Cup, maintained an unbeaten home record in the competition since 2000, and denied Northampton even a bonus point. But this was not the performance of a blue-blooded side seeking their third European title.

The Toulousains duly avenged their unlikely defeat of a week before, comprehensively lead Pool Three of the Heineken Cup, maintained an unbeaten home record in the competition since 2000, and denied Northampton even a bonus point. But this was not the performance of a blue-blooded side seeking their third European title.

Northampton already had enough problems to sort out, sitting at the bottom of the English league table, regrouping after a wholesale change in their management and lacking key strengths in their playing squad. To give away a mass of silly penalties, see Matt Lord go into the sin-bin for 10 minutes of the second half, and then have Andrew Blowers taken off on a stretcher was not something they could afford. Nor was Ben Cohen the safest pair of hands in the centre. But there was plenty of new spirit and afterwards the captain, Steve Thompson, was proud of the way his team had "stood up" to the challenge.

The Toulouse line-up saw the French scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde back in to partner Frédéric Michalak and, with lots more beef in reserve, a powerhouse pack promised to resort to the bludgeon rather than the rapier.

They would have been better to use the rapier. Even without a try, the winger Cédric Heymans was made man of the match. Northampton were thought to be a bit suspect up front but it was the Midlanders, from the loosehead Chris Budgen to a sharp and aggressive back row, who took the early game to Toulouse.

They also upset the forecasters when Shane Drahm kicked the opening penalty of an eventual four. Nor did they ever allow the home side to settle down. Michalak helped with his own penalty after the first of some nightmare mistakes for the young full-back John Clarke, but he had to leave the field three minutes later, not because, as the crowd thought, of a high tackle by Blowers, but because of a turned right ankle.

That was no problem for Toulouse, who could call on the boot of Elissalde to add a couple more penalties on his way to five and a conversion as they began to make their power felt. They drove and drove again through the forwards, producing the only try of the game for the prop Jean-Baptiste Poux.

When the coach, Guy Noves, agitatedly called for Elissalde to add a final penalty deep into injury time, Toulouse's paucity of either ambition or authority was too amply demonstrated.

Toulouse: N Jeanjean (C Poitrenaud, 80); V Clerc, Y Jauzion, F Fritz (G Thomas, 79), C Heymans; F Michalak (J-F Dubois, 13), J-P Elissalde; J-P Poux (P Collazo, 87), W Servat (Y Bru, 63), O Hasan, G Lamboley, F Pelous (capt), J Bouilhou, T Brennan (C Labit, 57), I Maka (F Maka, 77).

Northampton: J Clarke (P Grayson, 79); W Human, B Cohen, M Stcherbina, J Rudd; S Drahm, M Robinson; C Budgen, S Thompson (capt), R Morris (B Sturgess, 80), M Lord, D Browne, C Krige (D Richmond, 66), A Blowers (G Seeley, 57), M Soden.

Referee: D Courtney (Ireland).

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