Sun, Jan 22, 2012 - Page 18 News List

Surprising Connacht send beaten Toulouse through

QUALIFICATION:Toulouse went into the game amid a row with a low-cost airline, which accused players of interfering with the door on their plane to England

AFP, PARIS

Gloucester’s Mike Tindall tackles Toulouse’s Thierry Dusatoir during their European Cup rugby union match at Kingsholm in Gloucester, England, on Friday.

Photo: AFP

Four-time champions Toulouse reached the European Cup quarter-finals on Friday despite losing 34-24 at Gloucester with their qualification assured when Connacht stunned Harlequins 9-8.

Toulouse made the last eight for the 13th time in their history as Pool Six winners, finishing on 18 points.

Harlequins have 17 points and now need an unlikely set of results in the weekend’s remaining group games to reach the last eight as a best runner-up.

Defending champions Leinster and Munster had already made sure of their quarter-final places last week while Pool Six leaders Ulster are also through as a consequence of Friday’s results.

“I am happy for the guys, who gave everything,” Toulouse coach Guy Noves said. “It’s a complicated competition. Very few French clubs will make the next round.”

Toulouse went into their game at the center of an embarrassing row with low-cost airline Danube Wings, who had accused players of interfering with the emergency door on the aircraft chartered to take them to England.

And they were far from their usual clinical best at Kingsholm.

Gloucester, who were already out of contention for a place in the knockout rounds, had led thanks to a fourth-minute try from fullback Jonny May after Timoci Matanavou’s clearance was charged down, with Freddie Burns adding the conversion.

Toulouse’s inspirational skipper Thierry Dusautoir scored a breakaway try after seven minutes with Lionel Beauxis adding the extras for 7-7. Beauxis then nailed a penalty for 10-7 before Matanavou made amends for his earlier blunder with a try on the 15-minute mark, Beauxis again succeeding with the conversion for a 17-7 lead.

But back came Gloucester with Fiji back-rower Akapusi Qera going over for his team’s second try. Burns converted as Toulouse led 17-14 at the interval.

The French side were then stunned when Gloucester grabbed their third try of the night through winger Charlie Sharples with Burns again adding the conversion for a 21-17 lead.

That became 24-17 with a Burns penalty, but Fijian winger Matanavou then scored his second try of the night, again converted, to pull the scores level at 24-24.

Incredibly, Gloucester nipped ahead through a Burns penalty before May sprinted away for his team’s fourth try in the dying minutes to stretch the lead to a winning 34-24, bonus point margin.

“It was a great performance,” Gloucester coach Bryan Redpath said.

“We knew they had picked a big, physical side and we showed them a lot of respect. I thought numbers 1 to 23 — our substitutes that came on made a big difference as well — were great. I am delighted for the boys because we finished off the European Cup in style,” he said.

On a raw and windswept night in Galway, Connacht went into their last pool game looking for an historic first win in the tournament and a first victory in any competition in four months.

Niall O’Connor kicked three first-half penalties while Quins winger Sam Smith scored the half’s only try as the Irish side led 9-5 at the break.

Former All Black Nick Evans, who had missed the conversion, succeeded with a penalty on the hour mark to cut Connacht’s lead to 9-8. Evans missed the target seven minutes later as news of Toulouse’s defeat in England filtered through, but Quins were unable to find the score which would have taken them through to the last eight at the French side’s expense.

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