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Match Report

14 Jan 2006: Wasps v Toulouse

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Match Report
Toulouse's Badge Stade Toulousain 19
Wasps's Badge Wasps 13
Fixture Type: Heineken Cup Venue: Stade Municipal
Match Date: Sat 14 Jan 2006, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Nigel Owens Touch Judge 1: David Davies
TV Match Official: Derek Bevan Touch Judge 2: Barrie Gregory

Brave comeback falls just short

It was a loss, but a valiant one. London Wasps 50th Heineken Cup match was one to remember, for players and supporters alike, as the English champions came back from a 13-0 deficit after 12 minutes to battle it out to the bitter end. The final result saw Wasps lose their unbeaten record against Toulouse, whilst the hosts claimed their 19th home win in succession in the Heineken Cup by running out 19-13 victors in a tense finale.

Brave comeback falls just short

Toulouse impressive start would have done for most other European clubs, but Wasps were able to change their game plan and score in a pulsating end to the first half that set things up nicely for a second half showdown.

In the event, the final 40 minutes saw both teams reach a sort of stalemate and despite Wasps valiant efforts in the dying minutes, the European champions hung on for the victory.

The game kicked off with both teams out of the traps quickly. Wasps were first to signal their attacking intentions, Tom Voyce bursting through off Staunton's shoulder, then Dawson finding space blind to put Josh Lewsey in behind the Toulouse defence where the Wasps centre was brought down by last man Gareth Thomas.

Toulouse retorted immediately however. No8 Finau Maka took advantage of a disintegrating scrum to pick up the ball and take off down the pitch unopposed, Van Gisbergen and Voyce forced to make big tackles to keep out Nyanga, as Maka attempted to put him in at the corner.

Toulouse continued to Wasps on the back foot, a tactical kick from Jeremy Staunton was charged down by Toulouse centre, Florian Fritz. As the centre chased the loose ball, he was obstructed by Lewsey and lashed out with an elbow, the tussle prompting a fracas between the two teams and Lewsey lucky to get away with only a penalty awarded against him.

Scrum half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde converted the penalty for a 3-0 lead in the 7th minute and increased his team's advantage to 6 four minutes later. Wasps Stuart Abbott looked to have sneaked through a gap, but lost the ball forward as he was hit by the cover defence. No8 Maka pounced on the spilled ball and sprinted within 5 metres of Wasps try line, where he was stopped by a brave last ditch tackle by winger Paul Sackey. With Toulouse rucking over and Wasps defence in disarray, captain Lawrence Dallaglio strayed offside in an attempt to catch Elissalde and the penalty was conceded for the scrum-half to convert.

The 13-0 advantage was cemented from the restart, courtesy of a stunning try from the European champions. Freddie Michalak began the move from his own 22, stepping through the Wasps midfield to advance into the Wasps half, where he passed to Fritz, the centre switching beautifully with winger Xavier Garbajosa who delivered the final pass for Gareth Thomas to score in the corner.

Turnovers in the first 20 minutes cost us the match, but I admire the character my team showed. - Dallaglio

With the Frenchmen playing an expansive game, Wasps abandoned their own wide policy as they battled to get a purchase on a match that was fast getting away from them, and began to exploit the gaps that were appearing around the fringes. Jeremy Staunton missed with his first penalty attempt in the 17th minute, but Wasps were looking after the ball better and scrum-half Eoin Reddan, on as a blood replacement for Matt Dawson, looked ever the live wire around the break down and made ground from a quick tap penalty to keep the hosts on their toes.

Michalak was punishing the visitors with some good territorial kicking however, and whilst Wasps worked hard with the ball in hand to progress into the Frenchmen's' half, the Toulouse fly half would punt his team back out of danger with aplomb.

Ironically, it was following a great Michalak kick for touch that Wasps created their first real threat to the Toulouse try line. George Skivington took a clean line out in his own 22 and Wasps progressed upfield before the hosts conceded a penalty on half way. Reddan took the quick tap and was away, passing to Sackey in space out wide. With only one man to beat and Josh Lewsey steaming up on the outside, it looked as if Wasps first touchdown was sealed, but the winger could not offload the ball.

Having made it to the 5-metre line, Wasps were determined to turn the screw. A concerted period of pressure resulted in a yellow card for centre Florian Fritz as the game entered injury time, and Wasps used the penalty to set up a 5-metre line out.

Play continued at fever pitch, but despite Wasps winning another 5 metre line out, and Sackey looking to steal in at the corner, the Frenchmen contrived to steal the ball and clear - but only to the 5 metre line. Finally in the driving seat, Wasps showed nous, and after recycling the ball and attacking close to the breakdown moved the ball out to Staunton who slipped the ball to Voyce on his shoulder, the winger offloading to hooker Raphael Ibanez in the tackle, and Ibanez delighted to go over for the score in the final play of the half.

With Van Gisbergen's conversion good the atmosphere was electric as the teams went in for the half time break, and expectation high as they returned to the pitch for the second half.

By comparison this was a quieter affair and the only points scored were with the boot. Fritz returned to the pitch soon after the restart, and the balance tipped in Toulouse's favour in the 48th minute when Tim Payne received a yellow card. Despite playing with 14, Wasps kept pace with their hosts however, Elissalde and Van Gisbergen exchanging penalties to make it 19-13 with ten minutes remaining.

Wasps staged a brave last-ditch challenge as the clock ticked down. An impressive forwards drive took them into the Toulouse 22 and promised to be a good platform from which to attack. However, after all the good work the ball squirted out loose from the back of the maul and Michalak pounced to hack on, whereupon Wasps retreating defence conceded a penalty. Although Elissalde missed with his attempt at goal, Toulouse took the opportunity to pin Wasps back into their own half and run down the clock for a memorable victory.

After the game, Wasps captain Lawrence Dallaglio praised the character of his players, particularly the young players in the pack,who fronted up magnificently in the hostile atmosphere of the 36,000 seater stadium.

'Turnovers in the first 20 minutes cost us the match,' he said afterwards, 'but I admire the character my team showed.

'We often get criticised in the tight five, but I was proud of the pack today, especially those younger players who wouldn't have been used to playing in that sort of hostile atmosphere.

'This was a very special match - these are the sorts of games you remember for the rest of your life and I think we showed today that we are one of the few sides capable of beating Toulouse. A lot of teams would have gone 13 down and ended up losing by 30 or 40 points. It is sad then that the damage was done for us in the early stages of the tournament in Edinburgh and Llanelli.

'We might have scored ourselves in the first 20 minutes, but one dummy taken and we were 13-0 down and facing an uphill battle.'

Referee: Nigel Owens
HT: 13-7
Attendance: 34 000