Wasps v Toulouse – Don’t leave before the final whistle!
Date: 4 Dec 2018
BY BARNEY BURNHAM
When Wasps entertain Toulouse in Round 3 of the Heineken Champions Cup on Saturday 8 December, it will be the eighth pool match between the sides.
Toulouse were Wasps’ first French opposition in Europe back in 1996/97. Reigning champions Toulouse came to the Round 3 clash at Loftus Road off the back of two pool wins, while Wasps had lost both their games. Toulouse were overwhelming favourites but were swept away by a dazzling display of running rugby. Wasps scored nine tries, including some spectacular end-to-end efforts. The 77-17 scoreline remains Toulouse’s heaviest European defeat.
The next pool meetings came in 2005/06. Round 2 at Adams Park was to be no repeat of the Shepherd’s Bush spectacular, as the visitors scored the game’s only two tries through Gareth Thomas and Vincent Clerc. Toulouse led 15-12 when they were penalised at a scrum near their line in the final play of the game. Wasps Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan ordered his side to go for the posts, rather than gamble on going for a match-winning try. Mark Van Gisbergen’s penalty ensured that it ended all-square. By the time of Round 5, Wasps’ hopes of a quarter-final hung by a thread and despite a gallant performance at Le Stadium, they went down to a 19-13 defeat.
The sides met again four years later. Round 1 was played in torrential rain at Le Stadium. In the dying seconds the home side led 18-16, with all their points from David Skrela’s boot and David Lemi having scored the game’s only try. Wasps were awarded a long-distance penalty and Dave Walder’s kick was narrowly off target.
The return meeting was also won in the final seconds, when Lemi’s try condemned the visitors to a 21-16 defeat, denying them a knockout place.
The most recent encounters came in 2016/17. Round 2, at Toulouse’s own ground, Stade Ernest Wallon, ended in a second draw between the sides. It was 6-6 after a tight first-half, but the second-half produced four tries. Census Johnston and Gael Fickou crossed for the hosts, with Josh Bassett replying for Wasps. With three minutes left and Toulouse leading 20-13, Nathan Hughes powered his way over, leaving Jimmy Gopperth a tricky conversion to snatch a draw. The boot which had sealed a dramatic last-gasp win in the previous season’s quarter-final against Exeter Chiefs, made no mistake and it ended 20-20.
Round 5 at the Ricoh was also decided at the death. As in Round 2, the first-half was tryless, with the only points coming from a Gopperth penalty. After Yoann Huget’s try put Toulouse ahead, Elliot Daly’s breakaway score reclaimed the lead. A 71st-minute penalty try then put the visitors back in front but Dan Robson’s quick thinking broke French hearts when he took a quick penalty to dive over for the winning score, seconds from time. It ended 17-14.
There was another occasion when a Wasps scrum half claimed late glory against the four-times European champions. As well as the pool meetings, there was an unforgettable Twickenham final, on Sunday 23 May 2004.
Two minutes from time, it was 20-20, with Wasps’ points coming courtesy of a Stuart Abbott try and a try, two conversions and two penalties from Mark van Gisbergen, while Toulouse’s points came from a try and two penalties from Yann Delaigue and three Jean-Baptiste Élissalde penalties.
Rob Howley then gathered a dropout on the Toulouse 10-metre line, just in from touch, and kicked towards the left corner. He chased, while Clément Poitrenaud waited behind his line to try and gather to touch down for another 22 dropout. What happened next? You shouldn’t need to ask…
All you need to know is that when Wasps meet Toulouse it’s rarely a dull encounter and that you should always stay till the final whistle!
Tickets for Wasps v Toulouse on Saturday 8 December start from just £18 for Adults while Juniors go FREE in certain areas of the ground. Grab yours now by clicking here or calling 02476786441.