Newport's slender hopes of squeezing into the Heineken Cup quarter-finals
were wrecked by a typical Toulouse counter-attacking show.
Three tries in the space of 12 minutes midway through the second half saw the
French champions through to a victory that avenged their defeat in Wales
earlier in Pool 6.
If there was pride in defeat for the Welshmen, it was a familiar tale from
this season - good, but nowhere near good enough. Having lost three close
games to Leinster this winter, another at Llanelli and now this one in
Toulouse, coach Ian McIntosh will be looking to find a way to turn his
team from nearly men to real contenders.
Not that McIntosh was too unhappy with his side's performance.
"The result is disappointing, but from our own point of view we wanted to
play the whole squad and we did that. Players have to start these kind of
games and I think we will benefit from this later on," he said.
"When we did make replacements the guys regrouped and got strong again towards the end. You can't play loose out here and we let it get too loose in the second half.
"What is very pleasing is to play away from home and be very much in the game throughout. We dominated the first half but gave away too many penalties.
"Toulouse are one of the best teams in the torunament. That's why we were so pleased to win the home game."
Simon Raiwalui's men arrived in France knowing they would have to hang on to
Toulouse in the fiery opening exchanges to stand any chance of winning and they
got the best possible start when outside half Jason Strange kicked a penalty after only four minutes.
Having pipped the French champions 21-20 with a last gasp try at Rodney Parade, the Welsh cup holders were expecting a torrid return clash. But even though former French outside half Yann Delaigue managed to edge the home team ahead with four successive penalties, it was the Frenchmen who were on the back foot more often in a nip and tuck first half.
Having conceded those 12 points without reply, Newport rallied with two more
Strange penalties in the last five minutes of the half to give themselves a great chance of notching a notable double.
Toulouse extended their lead with a drop goal from Xavier Garbajosa, but a
moment of inspiration from No 8 Andrew Powell gave the Welsh side a
considerable lift after 50 minutes.
After picking up a knock on near half-way, Powell threw an outrageous dummy
to beat the first line of defence, swerved past another defender and then
hared off for the line.
He was eventually brought down 10 metres short, but got back up to drive to within a few metres before releasing to allow fellow back row man Jason Forster to cross.
Strange added the conversion and all of a sudden Newport were ahead by a point.
But three tries in a 12 minute burst from the home side put them back in
control and wrecked Newport's dreams of victory.
No 8 Finau Maka grabbed the first, after some neat approach play by Nicolas Jeanjean, Delaigue and Emile Ntamack and then Heineken man of the match Delaigue skipped over after Hughes Miorin pinched a Newport line-out 10 metres out.
Michel Marfaing grabbed the third after a kick and chase and the reliable boot
of Delaigue converted them all.
There was a consolation try for Forster at the death after a Mike Voyle hand
off on the home 22 had cleared the way for the flanker to run to the posts.
Strange converted but is wasn't enough to keep Newport in the hunt for a quarter-final spot.
Scorers: Toulouse: Tries: F Maka, Y Delaigue, M Marfaing; Cons: Y Delaigue 3;
Pens: Y Delaigue 4; DG: X Garbajosa. Newport: Tries: J Forster 2; Cons: J
Strange 2; Pens: J Strange 3.
TOULOUSE: N Jeanjean (C Desbrosse 63); E Ntamack (capt), X Garbajosa, C
Poitrenaud (C Heymans 75), M Marfaing; Y Delaigue, J Fillol (F Michalak 67);
B Lecouls (J Poujade 73), W Servat (Y Bru 63), F Tournaire, H Miorin (F Pelous 66), D Gerard, D Lacroix (C Labit 66), F Maka, S Dispagne
NEWPORT RUGBY: M Pini; M Mostyn, M Watkins, J Pritchard (A Marinos 63), B
Breeze (A Marinos 25-33); J Strange, O Tonu'u (D Burn 60); R Snow, P Young (J
Richards 53), C Anthony (C Jones 41-53), S Raiwalui (captain, I Gough 53), M
Voyle, J Powell, J Forster, A Powell
All roads lead to Cardiff on Sunday for the SSE SWALEC Finals Day at the Millennium Stadium. Cambrian Welfare tackle Ystradgynlais in the Bowl final, Ystrad Rhondda play Newcastle Emlyn in the Plate final while defending champions Pontypridd face Bridgend in the Cup final.
WRU Chief Executive Roger Lewis, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Ken Skates and WRU Chairman Gareth Davies earlier this week launched a new competition in conjunction with the WRU unveiling its archive room.
Welsh players and management joined Deputy Minister for Sport Ken Skates at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay earlier this week to reveal the Union's pioneering school-club hub initiative has been so successful the project will now almost double the scale of the original project.
The Scarlets, Newport Gwent Dragons, Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys look ahead to Judgement Day III which sees the Blues take on the Ospreys (2.30) and the Dragons tackle the Scarlets (4.45pm) at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
Ystradgynlais and Ynysddu played out a titanic struggle at Taffs Well in the SSE SWALEC Bowl semi-final. At the end of the game neither team could be separated after a 15-15 stalemate but Ystradgynlais go through on try count.
Blues strike first in JD III battle - Newport Gwent Dragons lock Andrew Coombs, WRU referee Dylan Llyr Jones and Cardiff Blues hooker Matthew Rees decide dressing room allocations for Judgement Day III
Wales Under 18 captain Calum Haggett has received a conditional offer to read Biomedical Science at St Anne's College, Oxford. WRU chairman Gareth Davies went to meet Calum and Coleg y Cymoedd Principal Judith Evans to wish him luck in his exams and pass on some of his personal experience.