Delaigue orchestrates Toulouse power play

Toulouse 36 Edinburgh 1

Mike Turner
Monday 23 September 2013 03:33

The greatest show on turf this was not but, in an atmosphere more common in arenas a few miles south in Spain, it was the bulls of Toulouse who were in command and the matadors from Meadowbank who were left bleeding.

Despite the loss of France scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elis-salde, crocked against Wales, and outside-half Frédéric Michalak, walloped after four second-half minutes at No 9 against Narbonne last week, Toulouse now travel to a semi-final against Biarritz in Bordeaux in a fortnight's time still on track to win back-to-back Heineken Cups.

There were never going to be any surprises about the way Toulouse would handle the opening phases. Their coach, Guy Noves, had said he wanted to see the defence tighten up and his side to dominate the fundamentals. What that means is an extended softening-up process by the battering-ram techniques the Toulouse pack enjoy so much.

If they run out of forwards, then the France centre Yannick Jauzion also knows how to play that game, and the process starts again. If not enough progress is being made the ball is booted as far into opposition territory as possible, tight defence is applied, a mistake is forced and possession is won back.

The last time these two met, back in January, Toulouse were bent on revenge for their only defeat in the pool stage, up in Scotland, and despite running out winners by 33-0 still came in for criticism from Noves for being only 9-0 up at half-time.

They were ahead of that within a quarter of an hour yesterday as Yann Delaigue kicked an easy penalty and then one of their favourite warhorses, Christian Labit, was on hand to complete yet another battering run. Delaigue converted.

Quite how Toulouse managed to bag no more points in the first half must have had Noves near apoplexy, especially as their half-time lead this time was just three points. The man who breached the tight defence, and had twice threatened before, was Edinburgh centre Marcus Di Rollo, following a turnover by Todd Blackadder, playing his first game this year to compensate for the absence through injury of No 8 Simon Taylor. Flanker Allister Hogg was on hand to make the pass and full-back Derrick Lee converted.

In terms of possession, until then Edinburgh had been living on a meagre ration of thin gruel, and from the start of the second half even that dried up. Just to give Toulouse a little comfort, Delaigue added another penalty and Cedric Heymans punished a stupid offside by Blackadder with a long-range pot from 47 metres. When Delaigue added another within the first 15 minutes of the second half, any home nerves were confidently turning to Mexican waves.

But signs of an intention to up the tempo and spread the action quickly dribbled away, urgency was lost and a malaise of self-satisfied complacency was worryingly apparent. With 10 minutes to go Delaigue made it five successful kicks with his fourth penalty, but the crowd wanted more than that.

Within two minutes they were hooting their approval for a well-worked try by full-back Clement Poitrenaud. Delaigue converted and the locals, who will have at least 12,500 tickets for the semi-final, started booking their train tickets west. The coup de grâce was delivered by Vincent Clerc and Delaigue was feted by the 35,900 crowd with a rendering of the Marseillaise as he lifted his tally to 18 points, half his team's total.

Stade Toulouse: C Poitrenaud; V Clerc, Y Jauzion, E Ntamack (C Desbrosse, 27), C Heymans; Y Delaigue, S Dupuy (J Patey, 76); P Collazo (J Fiorini, 76), Y Bru (W Servat, 40), J-B Poux, F Pelous (capt), T Brennan (D Gerard, 55), J Bouilhou, F Maka (I Maka, 57), C Labit (R Millochlusky, 78).

Edinburgh: D Lee; S Webster (C Joiner, 55), M Di Rollo, T Philip, C Paterson (H Southwell, 30); B Laney, M Blair; A Jacobsen, D Hall (A Kelly, 66), J Brannigan (C Smith, 50), N Hines, S Murray (A Kellock, 75), T Blackadder (capt), S Cross, A Hogg.

Referee: A Rolland (Ireland).

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