Toulouse are torn apart

RUGBY UNION
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The Independent Online
Wasps 77 Toulouse 17

Stinging criticism, from which no one was spared by all accounts, and rumours that the club was prepared to go out and spend plenty on big names following their abject display against Munster, had the desired effect. Wasps may be out of the Heineken Cup's later stages but they are back to their very best as this awesome performance showed.

It was the heaviest defeat in the proud history of the Cup holders Toulouse's and prompted the French club's coach, Guy Noves, the former France wing, to say: "I was absolutely shocked to see an English side play this kind of rugby. The quality of Wasps' rugby surprised me." A stunned captain, Emile Ntamack, said: "We were Toulouse in name only."

Wasps' captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, was moved to say: "When England play France at Twickenham they can take heart from this. The way we [England] play France now doesn't have to be the way we've played them over the last eight years, you know, putting the ball up on their wingers and keeping it very tight, just trying to grind them down, although obviously there is an element of that."

There was a freedom in the Wasps approach coupled with a single-mindedness, particularly up front where the admirable pack was a revelation. If there were problems in the scrum, where Christian Califano proved to be an armful for young Will Green, the line-outs were a different story. There Andy Reed, the Scotland lock who joined from Bath but had not played a hard competitive match for 22 months because of injury, was a towering presence. He and his fellow Scot Damian Cronin - coincidentally another Bath old boy - cleaned up at will against a lacklustre French line-out.

All the Wasps eight were rampant in the loose. The quick ruck ball, in the second half especially, saw wave after wave of Wasps attacks producing a tide of points; while every time Toulouse, the pre-tournament favourites, headed upfield they were invariably upended and stopped in their tracks by some shuddering tackles.

And if it wasn't the forwards bludgeoning through, then out wide the herd of thoroughbreds Wasps call threequarters were generally able to high-step their way through some loose cover, which proved to be no more than soft furnishing as far as the likes of Nick Greenstock, Va'aiga Tuigamala, Shane Roiser and Paul Sampson were concerned.

Greenstock scored the try of the match, was a rock in defence and his original lines of thought and running proved an inspiration in attack as he carved up the opposition and helped create a platform from which Wasps could never be toppled. At half-back Alex King just grows in stature. Again another fine footballing brain was at work throughout the afternoon. Cunning chips and stunning breaks were the features of his game while, for that first, breathtaking Greenstock try, a shunning of caution in favour of a bold pick-up behind his own line when Michel Marfaing was on the point of diving on the ball saw King launch the move of the match which took the action from Wasps' line to the other end in seconds for Greenstock's first try and brought the 7,000 crowd to its feet.

And when there were no tries in the offing, the pressure created by the Wasps forwards induced a series of crass errors by the French which Jon Ufton punished to devastating effect with his metronome of a left boot. Five penalties and six conversions for a haul of 27 points told their own tale.

Wasps: Tries Reed, Roiser, Greenstock 2, Mitchell, penalty try, Sampson, Sheasby, King; Conversions Ufton 6, King; Penalties Ufton 5; Drop goal King.

Toulouse: Tries Ntamack, Lasserre; Conversions Deylaud 2; Penalty Castaignede.

Wasps: J Ufton; P Sampson (L Scrase, 77), N Greenstock, V Tuigamala, S Roiser; A King, A Gomarsall (M Fraser, 76); D Molloy (D Macer, 72), S Mitchell, W Green (I Dunstan, 74), D Cronin (M Greenwood, 65), A Reed, L Dallaglio (capt), M White (P Volley 40-42), C Sheasby.

Toulouse: S Ougier (F Cazaux, 67); E Ntamack (capt), M Marfaing, T Castaignede (O Carbonneau, 24), D Berty (X Garbajosa, 44); C Deylaud, J Tilloles; C Califano, C Guiter (P Lasserre, 40), J-L Jordana, H Miorin, F Belot, J-L Cester (D Lacroix, 54), H Manent, S Dispagne.

Referee: G Simmonds (Wales).

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