Ahead of Wasps’ European Champions Cup clash with Toulouse, director of rugby Dai Young labelled the visit of the French giants a virtual “knockout game”. Wasps’ 24-16 defeat at the hands of Toulouse marks the third game in succession that they have failed to win in European competition, leaving Wasps on the cusp of elimination from the competition.
Wasps elected to kick-off amid a bubbling atmosphere at the Ricoh Arena and seemed to feed off of the crowd
Toulouse made eight changes to their starting line-up heading into the fixture, with Jerome Kaino returning to the side at number eight following a period on the sidelines through suspension. Wasps also made changes prior to the match, but were forced to turn to the replacements bench in both halves. Number eight Nathan Hughes suffered an injury to his hip and pelvis, while Tom Cruse’s return to the side was also cut short.
Wasps elected to kick-off amid a bubbling atmosphere at the Ricoh Arena and seemed to feed off of the crowd as they heaped pressure on the Toulouse defenceduring the opening exchanges of the match. Referee John Lacey was compelled to consult the TMO after just two minutes of play, subsequently awarding the home side a penalty, which was duly converted by Lima Sopoaga.
It didn’t, however, take Toulouse long to find their way onto the score-sheet. Fourteen minutes into play Cheslin Kolbe was able to score the first try of the game, taking advantage of a well-worked line-out which allowed him to break the lines and gallop home from inside of his own half. Thomas Ramos was unable to inflict a double-blow onto the home side, pulling his conversion effort wide in difficult, windy conditions.
Wasps started to attack more freely and they quickly reaped the rewards with Will Rowlands creeping over the line to score Wasps’ first try of the game
Until the 32nd minute, the game settled into a steadier flow. Both sides traded penalty goals as the visitors raced into an 11-6 lead but Toulouse was unable to sustain their momentum as Maks van Dyk was justifiably sent to the sin-bin for a high challenge amid a scrappy period of play.
With the comfort of a man advantage, Wasps started to attack more freely and they quickly reaped the rewards with Will Rowlands creeping over the line to score Wasps’ first try of the game. Sopoaga continued his good start to the match by knocking home the conversion on 35 minutes, sending the home side into a two-pointlead.
In response, Toulouse quickly rallied down the left-flank, smart handling by Guitoune saw Dupont race into the clear only for him to knock the ball on just five meters from the line. It was a let-off for Wasps and the home side looked relieved to be going into the break with their two-point lead intact.
Wasps were able to get back into contention on 58 minutes but any prospect of a late rallying cry from the hosts was cancelled out in eight minutes
Yet it was Wasps’ grip on the game that slipped during the second half, not the resolve of the travelling Toulouse squad. The visitors were able to restore their lead just two minutes into the second half, with Ramos converting a penalty from 35 meters out. The balance of the game continued to tilt in favourof Ugo Mola’s side as Guitoune crashed over the line in the left corner on fifty minutes. Toulouse’s second try of the game shared many similarities with their first, as, once again, they broke through the Wasps defence following a missed tackle in the midfield.
With the score now at 21-13 in favour of the French side, Toulouse looked increasingly assured amid challenging conditions at the Ricoh Arena. Via the boot of Eliot Daly, Wasps were able to get back into contention on 58 minutes but any prospect of a late rallying cry from the hosts was cancelled out in eight minutes. Ramos, who had a good night for the visitors, converted his penalty to restore his side’s 8 point lead going into the final quarter of the game. Toulouse was able to lock Wasps out for the remainder of the European tie despite having to finish the clash with Louis Maduale in the sin bin for a reckless stamp during the breakdown.
Defeat leaves Wasps rooted to the bottom of Pool A and with Leinster securing a 17-10 victory over Bath at the Recreational Ground, Leinster and Toulouse continue to race clear of their ailing Premiership counterparts.
Reflecting on the game in his post-match press-conference Dai Young was honest in assessment of his side’s shortcomings, arguing that Wasps “were in it for big parts of that game, but two first-phase tries were ultimately the difference.” It wasn’t to be for Wasps this time out, but they are back in action next Saturday as they face-off against Bath in the Gallagher Premiership as they aim to climb to 3rd in the table just in time for Christmas.