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Toulouse will go in search of consecutive Heineken Champions Cup semi-final appearances on Sunday but will have to see off determined opponents in Ulster Rugby at the Stade Ernest Wallon in order to do so.
The French side eased into the last eight with six wins from as many matches, picking up 27 points in the process whilst Ulster won five match which was only good enough to secure a spot as one of three best runners-up.
Toulouse v Ulster Rugby is available to watch from 12:30 (UK and Irish time) on Channel 4, Virgin Media, BT Sport, FR2 and beIN SPORTS.
Toulouse: 1st, Pool 5, 27 points
Ulster: 2nd, Pool 3, 21 points
Toulouse wins: 3
Ulster wins: 5
2019/20 point scorers
Toulouse: Thomas Ramos (61), Romain Ntamack (28), 5 players (10).
Ulster: John Cooney (71), 11 players (5).
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) September 18, 2020
- Pita Ahki (Toulouse): “They are a very hard-working team, just looking at the PRO14 semi-finals. They were down for the whole game and managed to grind it out. “They have big ball–carriers like Stuart McCloskey, who can offload, so we’ll be keeping an eye on them. That’s as well as players like [John] Cooney and [Alby] Mathewson off the bench.”
- Dan McFarland (Ulster): “If you watch them play, they’re certainly one of the best teams in Europe. Their size, speed and offload ability – trying to find a weakness in how they play is very difficult. “They have probably the best number nine in the world [Antoine Dupont], so it’s a challenge, but that’s a motivation in itself.
- Toulouse have reached the knockout stage for the 18th time in their history, the joint most of any club along with Munster.
- Ulster have won two of their six previous quarter-finals, although one of their two victories at this stage was against Toulouse during their European Cup winning campaign in 1998/99 (also v Munster in 2012).
- Toulouse are unbeaten in their last nine home games in the Heineken Champions Cup, winning their last eight in a row (D1), while Ulster have lost their last five games in France, each of those defeats coming by 15+ points.
- Ulster have conceded just two first-half tries this season, fewer than any other side, while Toulouse have conceded the fewest in the second half of matches (1).
- Ulster retained 31 of their 167 kicks from hand in the pool stage, more than any other side and almost double Toulouse’s tally (16). Only La Rochelle (21%) retained a higher proportion of their kicks than the Ulstermen (19%).
- Ulster are the only club yet to be shown a card of any colour in the Heineken Champions Cup this season.
- Toulouse have won 12 opposition lineouts, three more than any other side and 10 more than Ulster. Individually, no one has stolen more than François Cros (5, level with Scott Cummings, Peter O’Mahony and Gerbrandt Grobler).
- Only Racing 92’s Camille Chat (27) has made more dominant carries this season than Ulster duo Marcell Coetzee and Stuart McCloskey (20 each).
- Just eight players have played every minute in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup pool stage, and half are from Ulster (Iain Henderson, Jacob Stockdale, Luke Marshall and Stuart McCloskey) while Toulouse’s Sofiane Guitoune is one of the other four (also Scott Cummings, James Lowe and Boris Palu).
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Two first half tries from Toulouse wing Cheslin Kolbe helped the French side on their way to a dominant 36-8 Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final win over Ulster Rugby at Stade Ernest Wallon on Sunday afternoon.
The South African international was at his brilliant best in the first half, dotting down twice before further tries in the second period from scrum-half Antoine Dupont, centre Pita Ahki and full-back Thomas Ramos ensured Toulouse’s spot in the last four of Europe’s elite club competition.
Toulouse got off to a quick start inside four minutes as Romain Ntamack and Dupont combined before the latter played a wonderful pass out to the right wing and found Kolbe who stepped past Jacob Stockdale in trademark fashion before diving over the line.
The two sides then traded successful penalty kicks from full-back Ramos and scrum-half John Cooney with Toulouse dominating proceedings but unable to convert the territory and possession into points.
"As soon as you get Cheslin Kolbe in space one-on-one, zero chance of defending it!"
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) September 20, 2020
However, just before the interval, Toulouse dealt what felt like a telling blow.
They were stuttering in attack before Sofiane Guitone found Peato Mauvaka in space and he picked out Kolbe who sold Stockdale again with another sumptuous step before sprinting clear and scoring at the posts.
It would be more Toulouse dominance after the break as Guitone again powered through the Ulster line, seeing off two defenders before having time to pull up his shorts and exploit the extra man by finding Dupont who raced clear and dived over the try line at the posts.
Centre Ahki then got on the scoresheet after Huget released him down the left wing before the New Zealander played a lovely chip in behind and managed to collect his own kick and dived over the try line.
Toulouse at their magnificent best, striking from nothing 🔴
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) September 20, 2020
Ulster’s Cooney did manage to grab a late consolation for the visitors but not before Guitone again picked the gap through the middle of the Irish province’s line and handed off to Ramos who could dot down for the easiest of tries and subsequently convert his own score.
Toulouse will face either Exeter Chiefs or Northampton Saints in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals next Saturday.