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.
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
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.
Elsewhere fellow Top 14 side Toulouse
recorded their first away victory of the season, beating English side
Bath 21-19, confirming the four-time European Cup winners have turned a
corner with their fourth successive victory having lost their previous
five which was their worst run in 50 years.
The most notable
individual performance came from Welsh international George North who
scored four tries as Northampton thrashed Ospreys 34-6.
first ever quadruple inflicted Ospreys' first defeat of the season and
extended the Welsh side's woeful away record in the competition with
their last victory outside of Wales coming five years ago.
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 flanker and man of the match Chris Masoe.
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
"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.
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 and Ulster were tightly-matched
for most of the first-half and looked set to be just 9-3 in the
champions favour until the French side scored a delightful try with the
last move of the half.
Juan Smith with a delightful overhead pass
found Masoe who offloaded to Habana, who had drifted over left to right
wing, and the South African star touched down -- Halfpenny converted for
Toulon killed off any hope of an Ulster comeback when
midway through the second-half 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 Leigh Halfpenny converted to silence the home crowd.
deserved their victory with three tries to Bath's one, man of the match
34-year-old veteran flanker Imanol Harinordoquy scoring one and setting
up another for Maxime Medard.
"This was a very good match for us
to win and one in which we maintained the right amount of focus," said
Harinordoquy, who signed from long-time club Biarritz when they were
relegated last season.
"We look as if we may have turned the
corner with these victories but we still need to keep our foot on the
pedal to regain ground we lost earlier this season."
defeat was their second in as many matches and will be hugely
disappointing for their owner Bruce Craig who was one of the main movers
behind the changes to the competition and has big ambitions for the
Toulouse though, don't top the pool as Scottish
side Glasgow - who thrashed Bath last week - edged a surprise 15-13
away win at Montpellier to lead Toulouse by a point.