The defending champion is still breathing. Stade Toulousain qualified for the semi-finals of the Top 14 thanks to an authoritarian victory, Saturday June 11, in a play-off against its favorite victim, La Rochelle (33-28).
Put into orbit by a great Antoine Dupont, Toulouse, stripped of his European title, chained a seventh consecutive success against the new European champion, too blunt to catch up with his failed start despite a burst of pride in the last moments. But after having chained high intensity matches in recent weeks, the Rochelais have not found the weapons to compete with this Toulouse.
“We beat a great teamwelcomed Ugo Mola, the Toulouse coach. We are well placed to know that when you win a European title, you have a form of enthusiasm that allows you to do incredible things. I had fears about our ability to respond to this energy, but today Toulouse put themselves in front of La Rochelle. »
Stung in their pride after their heavy defeat in the semi-finals of the European Cup against the Irish of Leinster (40-17), the Toulousains have given their hearts to work to keep their other title and offer themselves a shock next week in Nice, against neighboring Castres, first in the regular phase.
In the furnace of Ernest-Wallon, where the temperature was still around 30° at kick-off, at the start of the evening, the champions of France, full of desire, started at a very high pace. And as often, it was Antoine Dupont who was responsible for lighting the first wicks. The best world player of the year 2021 gave his team a decisive advantage in two stages and a few beautiful moves (15-0 after 18 minutes).
Well found inside by international hooker Peato Mauvaka, preferred in the starting XV to Julien Marchand, the scrum half first offered himself, with a kick over for himself, a breakthrough concluded by the Pierre Fouyssac center. He then personally took on the task of flattening the Rouge et Noir’s second try in a corner, five minutes later, after making the Rochelle opener Ihaia West dizzy, author of a very complicated start to the match.
Nor the exit on injury, from the 20e minute, from the international third line François Cros, nor the hard tries of the third lines from La Rochelle Wiaan Liebenberg (26e15-7 for Toulouse) and Grégory Alldritt (56e21-14) were not enough to stop Toulouse’s superiority.
La Rochelle keeps up appearances
Less sovereign in the second act, Toulouse still managed to score two more tries, thanks to the Argentinian Juan Cruz Mallia, who had already scored last year in the European Cup final, and Romain Ntamack.
The two tries at the very end of the match by Pierre Bourgarit (79e) and Jules Favre (80+1) allowed La Rochelle to save appearances in this duel between the last two winners of the European Cup.
“It’s a big disappointment to achieve a performance like that, admitted Ronan O’Gara, the coach of La Rochelle. We were dominated in aggressiveness, the best team won. There is no photo, congratulations to Toulouse. It may have been one game too many for us, but that’s no excuse. »
After having already crushed Biarritz (80-7) during the 26e and last day, the Toulousains will present themselves in full confidence in the semi-final against Castres, ready to dearly defend the shield of Brennus.