Not even a foot trip could bring down Springbok star Cheslin Kolbe, as he stepped his way through Bordeaux’s defence in the Champions Cup semi-final clash leaving a trail of defenders in his wake.
In what descended into a typical Top 14 derby, the two powerhouse French clubs engaged in a dullish semi-final at Stade Ernest Wallon. Four time European champions came away with the spoils, winning 21-9 to qualify for the final after coming up short the last few seasons.
With a 14-9 lead, Toulouse were looking for the knockout blow late in the game when Kolbe exploded through the defence putting on a stepping show reminiscent of his World Cup final exploits.
Picking up the ball at the base of the ruck, Kolbe looked apprehensive about what to do next, circling backwards like a Sevens player before targetting the opposite side of the ruck.
The Toulouse wing put a damaging left foot step on Bordeaux’s reserve lock Cyril Cazeaux, who threw out a foot trip in a desperate attempt to bring Kolbe down. The 27-year-old put another left foot step on halfback Maxime Lucu moments later for a devastating combo.
It took four Bordeaux players in pursuit of Kolbe to force the Springbok to stop running and put a chip kick ahead which went dead in goal giving the opposition a reprieve.
— Top Rugby (@TopRugby2) May 1, 2021
Kolbe couldn’t link up with Antoine Dupont who was trying to find a way to keep the break alive, but it was the Toulouse scrumhalf who eventually put the final nail in the coffin with eight minutes remaining.
With some enterprising offloading between inside centre Pita Ahki and fullback Maxime Medard, Australian centre Zach Holmes found a crease directly up the middle before drawing the fullback to put Dupont away.
France’s halfback sprinted 25-metres to extend the lead to 21-9 with the successful conversion, securing a Heineken Cup final berth the team has been chasing the last few seasons.
— France tv sport (@francetvsport) May 1, 2021
— Rhys Knott (@buck_mitchell) May 1, 2021
Since signing stars such as Cheslin Kolbe and All Black Jerome Kaino, Toulouse have threatened Europe’s powers with a squad full of promising young French nationals including star halfback Antoine Dupont.
A defeat of defending champions Leinster at home in the pool stages of the 2019 European season sent a warning that the former French power was back.
That side ultimately fell short, succumbing to Leinster 30-12 in the semi-final at the RDS Arena but won the domestic league that season, proving their merit as genuine contenders.
Winning 21 games and losing just three throughout 2019, Toulouse finished top of the Top 14 table earning a bye heading into the playoffs before beating La Rochelle in the semi-final and Clermont in the final to capture their 20th league title.
With the Top 14 season cancelled in 2020, they were unable to defend their title. With only European silverware on offer, Toulouse again fell at the semi-final stage of the Champions Cup, losing to English club Exeter who went on to capture their first European crown over Racing 92.
Their victory over Bordeaux Begles secured a spot in what will be a seventh final appearance where they will face the winner of Leinster and La Rochelle.
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