TOULOUSE, the pre-tournament favourites, booked their place in Sunday's Cardiff Arms Park final with a commanding Heineken Cup semi-final victory yesterday.
The double French champions and Cardiff will now meet in a final brimming with promise. But Cardiff will have to match a fiery Toulouse pack if they are to become the inaugural winners of the trophy. Yesterday Swansea were out-gunned and out-scored 3-0 in tries.
The Welsh displayed plenty of pride and passion but that was never going to be enough against a class team like Toulouse, who did virtually all of the threatening with the ball in hand.
Some of their passing was an absolute delight and their fly-half, Christophe Deylaud, had a dream afternoon with the boot, landing everything on offer. By contrast, his opposite number Aled Williams had a miserable time, succeeding with just one out of four penalty chances. Having had the stiff wind at his back in the first half, his two misses early on always looked as if they were going to prove costly.
That is how it turned out, Toulouse taking the game by the scruff of the neck and dominating in the final stages. The All Whites did keep plugging away in search of a consolation score, but Toulouse had effectively wrapped it up in the first half.
Deylaud had started his profitable afternoon's business with two penalties, before Williams belatedly found his range and accuracy.
But the killer blow came just before half-time. The Swansea scrum had already lost their flanker Alan Reynolds and lock Andy Moore through injuries when the home pack turned up the heat. Moore, who was stretchered off with badly damaged knee ligaments, looks set to miss Wales's international against Italy at Cardiff on 16 January. Reynolds's injury was diagnosed as a sprung rib cartilage.
The Swansea scrum could not take the increased strain and collapsed in the shadow of their posts. The Scottish referee Jim Fleming had no hesitation in awarding the penalty try.
It was a crucial blow and Swansea never looked like recovering. They held on, though, until the 55th minute but after that all the traffic was flowing in one direction.
The flanker Herve Manet plunged over for Toulouse's second try, while one of the fights that littered the game was going on 40 yards away. Shortly afterwards the French centre Eric Artijuste sliced through Swansea's ragged defence to wrap the match up in style.
Deylaud, who had already converted the two earlier tries and completed a penalty hat-trick, landed the final conversion to seal a victory that proved totally convincing.
The only concern for Toulouse will be having to travel away for the final: their record at home has been quite outstanding. They certainly relish the challenge. "To meet Cardiff at the Arms Park was my wish for the New Year," said Toulouse's wing and captain, Emile N'tamack. "Now we're going to win there."
Toulouse: S Ougier; E N'tamack (capt), E Artiguste, T Castaignede (O Carbonneau, 69), D Berty (U Mola, 61); C Deylaud, J Cazalbou; C Califano (P Lasserre, 67), P Soula, C Portolan, H Miorin, F Belot, D Lacroix (R Castel, 56), H Manent, S Dispagne.
Swansea: R Boobyer; A Harris, D Weatherley, M Taylor, Simon Davies; A Williams, R Jones; C Loader, G Jenkins, K Colclough, S Moore, A Moore (M Thomas, 37), A Reynolds (M Evans, 79), R Appleyard, Stuart Davies (capt).
Referee: J Fleming (Scotland).Reuse content