Toulon in cruise control

2014-10-25 18:07
Chris Masoe (AFP)

Paris - Two-time defending European champions Toulon took a big step towards the European Champions Rugby Cup knockout stages with a solid 23-13 victory over 1999 winners Ulster in Belfast on Saturday.

The French side outscored the hosts two tries to one -- South African star Bryan Habana finishing off an excellent move on the stroke of half-time and English wing Delon Armitage running back an interception in the second-half.

Ulster got a late try through Craig Gilroy but it was not enough to prevent them slipping to their second defeat in a week in the competition, the first time they have lost their first two games since the 2008/09 campaign.

Toulon top Pool 3 with eight points while English side Leicester, who play Welsh outfit Scarlets later on Saturday, have four points while Ulster are struggling with just a point after two games.

"This was like a semi-final to us," said Toulon flank and man of the match Chris Masoe.

"To get a win here is tough. True champions are those that bounce back and front up and we have done that since we lost to Toulouse a fortnight ago.

"To be fair we are not looking towards winning three in a row we are just looking at each game as it comes."

Ulster captain Rory Best was left disappointed by his side's display on what was his 50th appearance in the competition.

"We fancied our chances today but the fact is great clubs have good players who take the right decisions and Toulon have that capacity and did that today," said the hooker.

Toulon Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny landed two penalties in quick succession after missing his first attempt at goal to give the visitors a 6-0 lead by the quarter hour mark.

Paddy Jackson, who was surprisingly left out of the Ireland squad named this week for the November tests, reduced the deficit with a penalty in the 22nd minute.

Not all was going Toulon's way as they lost Argentinian veteran flanker Juan Martin Fernandez-Lobbe in the opening minutes with a left leg injury, and also saw fly-half Matt Giteau go off before the half hour mark with what looked like a groin injury.

Halfpenny made it 9-3 and then Toulon landed a potentially deadly blow with the final move of the half.

Juan Smith with a delightful overhead pass found Chris Masoe who offloaded to Habana, who had drifted over left to right wing, and the South African star touched down -- Halfpenny converted for 16-3.

Jackson converted a penalty six minutes into the second-half for 16-6 to give them some hope.

However, Toulon struck the decisive blow and killed off the Ulstermen's hopes of coming back when Armstrong intercepted deep inside his own half with the hosts threatening to score a try of their own.

The Englishman ran it the whole way back to touch down under the posts and Halfpenny converted to silence the home crowd.

Read more on:    toulon  |  bryan habana  |  rugby

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