Wednesday 18 September 2019

Toulouse go back to their roots to come up with Medard's majestic winner

Maxime Medard (right) celebrates after scoring the final try. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Maxime Medard (right) celebrates after scoring the final try. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Long after the Leinster players had waved their last salute to their travelling fans, the Toulouse players lingered on the boggy Stade Ernest Wallon turf to salute a fanbase who remained behind to relive past glories.

It might prove to be a one-off win, but this felt like the rebirth of a dynasty. Three of the players were born after the club collected their first of four European titles in 1996 including Romain Ntamack, whose father Emile was the star of that team.

Since they last won this tournament in 2010, the tournament's then most successful club were in decline - a shadow of their former selves.

Last May, Leinster equalled their record of four titles and, even if their challenge was dented yesterday, they still look the more likely team to get to five first.

But, with a new regime in the directors box, a re-jigged coaching ticket and a team flush with youth they downed the champions to make it two wins from two and put themselves in the frame for a quarter-final spot.

And, they did it with a try that the great Toulouse teams would have been proud of - a length of the field piece of continuity play that was finished with their last link to the 2010 team - Maxime Medard.

His second score, the winner, was a thing of beauty. Luke McGrath won't want to see it again, but when Louis-Benoit Madaule read his intentions he set in motion a move that saw the ball pass through Yoann Huget, Alban Placínes and Sébastien Bézy's hands before Medard raced over. Thomas Ramos converted and they held on to win it.

"Like Toulouse can do," co-coach Regi Sonnes said with a contented grin.

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"We want to play like that, we coach the players to play like that because it is our identity.

"We love it, we really love it and it's effective mostly. It was beautiful. Sometimes we're beautiful!"

Up in the stands the committee of Bandon RFC were being wined and dined as Sonnes' guests. He spent the last two years in west Cork on a sabbatical, coaching the local club, before returning to the professional game refreshed.

He appears to be enjoying the experience and having an impact.

"You can feel a new positive atmosphere. A restart for the club," he said.

"We hoped and today, last week in Bath too, that puts Toulouse back in the cycle. We know we have a lot of jobs to do again, but we are on the way, we hope.

"The mentality was positive, because beating Leinster could be a historic exploit for us.

"We tried to beat the best team in Europe playing our game to the maximum level and to enjoy the moment with the supporters.

"Thomas (Ramos), Romain (Ntamack), the No 8 (Selevasio Tolofua), the prop (David Ainu'u) is just 18-years-old. Eighteen!

"It is incredible, some lads were winning their first European Cup cap, six or seven, it's incredible.

"It's great for confidence, we worked very hard all the weeks and I think and hope they can understand the potential, to have more maturity and confidence for the future to be a strong team.

"We are far away from Leinster's level, we need more consistency. But big potential. We are happy for it."

"We have a difficult calendar because we play a lot of games. We have the Top 14 and next week we play Perpignan.

"For us, it is all the weeks 100pc. I hope it's a reference game for us in the future, for our confidence mostly.

"We are very proud."

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