Toulouse make it to third decider

Toulouse 19 Biarritz 11

His try came just after their opponents had taken the lead for the first time when Philippe Bidabe had touched down but Biarritz were let down all match by French international scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili’s place-kicking as he landed just two penalties from five attempts.

By contrast, his Toulouse counterpart Yann Delaigue had a superb day kicking 14 of their points including the last second drop goal to wrap up the victory.

Fiery Toulouse coach Guy Noves said he had feared the worst after the first quarter of the match.

“At half-time frankly I didn't think we were going to win,” said Noves, whose gamble on playing French fly-half Frederic Michalak failed as the 21-year-old had to go off as his ankle failed to stand up to the pressure.

“The first 25 minutes were catastrophic but the players reacted really well at the beginning of the second-half and we deserved it in the end.”

Noves, never one to hide his feelings, handed out a fierce blast at the organisers of the French championship, which will see them in the midst of the French championship play-offs when they play the final against either Wasps or Munster on May 23.

“It is inhuman, indecent, and pretty much shows a lack of respect to the players to impose such a schedule on them,” he said.

Maka said it was a much deserved victory.

“I wasn’t on for that long, 30 minutes I think, but it is definitely the best performance from me in this tournament,” said the 28-year-old, who was on the bench until replacing Christian Labit in the second-half.

Toulouse captain Fabien Pelous praised Delaigue for his masterful performance. “He ran things and made it possible for us to reach the final,” said Pelous, who could add the European Cup to the Six Nations Grand Slam he led France to last month.

“It was tight but I always knew it would be and it is only something like Yann’s play that set us apart,” he added.

Biarritz coach Patrice Lagisquet was understandably disappointed: “We made too many errors and that you cannot do at this level.”

Yachvili’s miserable day with the boot continued in the second-half - Toulouse led 9-3 at half-time - as he missed an eminently kickable penalty six minutes into the period.

However he finally slotted his second penalty three minutes later and it seemed to spark life into his backs as it was from virtually their next foray into Toulouse territory that Bidabe was sent over by Nicolas Brusque in the far corner after a flowing move.

Yachvili missed the resulting conversion while at the same moment Maka replaced Labit which added much-needed impetus to the attack and he was deservedly on hand to touch down having broken through two Biarritz defenders after a move that had been started by Delaigue’s neat sidestep.

Delaigue added the conversion to give Toulouse a 16-11 lead with 15 minutes remaining.

Delaigue had given the champions the lead in the 13th minute with a neatly taken penalty but Biarritz missed a chance to level the match five minutes later as Yachvili’s penalty attempt drifted wide of the post. He made no mistake, however, when presented with another opportunity two minutes later to tie the match at 3-3 but Delaigue then restored Toulouse’s lead a few minutes later.

Yachvili failed again to restore parity after 30 minutes as he dragged his penalty wide of the posts and Delaigue hammered home their differing fortunes by landing a third penalty on the stroke of half-time to give Toulouse a 9-3 lead they would not relinquish.

TOULOUSE: Poitrenaud, Clerc, Desbrosse, Jauzion, Heymans, Delaigue, Michalak, Collazo, Servat, Poux, Pelous, Brennan, Bouihlou, F. Maka, Labit.

BIARRITZ: Brusque, Bidabe, Gaitan, Lacroix, Marlu, Peyrelongue, Yachvili, Balan, Gonzales, Avril, Manent, Couzinet, Betsen, Tonita, T. Lievremont.

Referee: Tony Spreadbury (RFU).

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