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Toulouse win thrilling Champions Cup try-fest with Harlequins

By PA
Toulouse's French lock Thibaud Flament celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during the European Rugby Champions Cup semi-final rugby union match between Stade Toulousain Rugby (Toulouse) and Harlequins, at Stade de Toulouse in Toulouse, south-western France on May 5, 2024. (Photo by Valentine CHAPUIS / AFP) (Photo by VALENTINE CHAPUIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Toulouse thwarted a thrilling Harlequins fightback to triumph 38-26 and book an Investec Champions Cup final clash against fellow European heavyweights Leinster.

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The competition’s two most successful teams, who boast nine titles between them, will go head-to-head at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 25.

But Toulouse had to survive a major scare on home soil at Le Stadium after Quins threatened to overhaul a 31-12 deficit.

Playing in the Champions Cup semi-finals for the first time, the Gallagher Premiership outfit went blow for blow with revered opponents, showcasing their exhilarating attacking adventure through tries from Marcus Smith, Cadan Murley, Will Evans and Tyrone Green, while Smith kicked three conversions.

Toulouse could not relax until wing Juan Cruz Mallia’s 69th-minute touchdown – it immediately followed a yellow card for Quins hooker Jack Walker – and came after earlier tries by Antoine Dupont (2), Matthis Lebel, Peato Mauvaka and Thibaud Flament, with Blair Kinghorn adding three conversions and Thomas Ramos one.

Quins gave it everything, trailing by only five points with more than an hour gone, yet Toulouse had just enough in the tank.

Toulouse blasted out of the blocks and were ahead after just four minutes following a lineout steal deep inside Quins’ 22.

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Points Flow Chart

Toulouse win +12
Time in lead
69
Mins in lead
4
86%
% Of Game In Lead
5%
49%
Possession Last 10 min
51%
0
Points Last 10 min
0

It was a poor error by the visitors, and Toulouse punished them ruthlessly as Romain Ntamack’s long, floated pass allowed Lebel an unopposed run to the line.

Ntamack and his revered half-back partner Dupont freely delved into their box of tricks, and it took Quins 12 minutes to emerge from their own half, such had been Toulouse’s dominance, but they responded brilliantly.

Toulouse were shunted on to the back foot as Quins attacked, and after number eight Alex Dombrandt went close, Smith weaved his way through three defenders for a try that he also converted.

Quins were then undone by Toulouse’s power-game, though, as a precision lineout drive was finished by Mauvaka and Kinghorn converted for a 12-7 lead after the opening quarter.

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Fixture
Investec Champions Cup
Toulouse
38 - 26
Full-time
Harlequins
All Stats and Data

There was no let-up in the entertainment and quality, with Quins drawing level when Evans touched down following a lineout surge that matched Toulouse’s effort, then Flament put his team back in front.

Toulouse’s third try was a direct produce of scrum-half Danny Care’s pass bouncing off flanker Chandler Cunningham-South, and Flament could scarcely believe his good fortune as Quins found themselves behind again.

But there was nothing fortunate about try number four as Toulouse attacked from deep through centre Paul Costes’ majestic break, and his well-judged kick into space was gathered by a chasing Dupont.

The game was rapidly moving away from Quins, and Dupont struck again four minutes later, this time the beneficiary of outstanding work by Mauvaka, and two more Kinghorn conversions gave Toulouse an imposing 19-point interval advantage.

Quins needed a lifeline early in the second period, and it arrived after 46 minutes when Smith’s long pass found Murley, and his acrobatic finish – Smith converted from the touchline – created a glimmer of hope.

And it got even better seven minutes later as another brilliant score was carved out by Murley before Care’s pass sent Green over, with Smith’s conversion leaving Quins within striking distance.

But Toulouse then reasserted themselves, helped by Walker’s yellow card, and he had barely left the pitch before Mallia struck, with Ramos’ conversion putting Quins under huge pressure.

And there was no way back for the visitors, as English interest in this season’s tournament was ended after a memorable 10-try spectacle.

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