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
The winners of a filmmaking competition organised by the education charity Into Film and the WRU enjoyed a behind the scenes tour of the Millennium Stadium - and a chance to be photographed with the WRU's fire-breathing, rugby loving mascot, Scorch The Dragon, and Welsh international, Jake Ball.
The Wales Under 20 camp are in a quietly confident mood as they face Ireland in the U20 Championship, with Coaching Co-Ordinator Allan Lewis and full back Dafydd Howells targeting a top five finish in the tournament.
Wales U20 may start as favourites against Japan this evening in the U20 Championship, but Team Manager Mark Taylor is warning against complacency. He is also hoping a good win will boost morale and 'kickstart' performances.
Coach Richard Hodges is hoping Wales U20 can put a disappointing campaign behind them when they tackle Japan tomorrow as they look to finish the U20 Championship strongly to secure a good seeding for next year's tournament.