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January 18, 2009

Toulouse 26 - 33 Glasgow Warriors

Heineken Cup match played at Stade Ernest Wallon on Saturday January 17th 2009 | 4 comments

Kelly went over for Glasgow's second try
Glasgow pulled off one of the biggest surprises in the history of the Heineken Cup as they shocked French giants Toulouse at the Stade Ernest Wallon.

Toulouse is known as the rose city, but Glasgow and their supporters would have been justified in painting it a deeper shade of red last night. This was an astonishing result - passionate, inspired, streetwise and skilful - and it will have rocked European rugby.

Toulouse came into the game with a formidable record, but they came out of it knowing they had been beaten by the better side. Even if Glasgow's place among the rugby elite is only temporary, nothing will ever diminish the memory of this performance.

Until yesterday, Glasgow had been about as much use on the road as a patch of black ice, but they put their years of travel sickness behind them with the stunning boldness of their play. Yes, they enjoyed the odd lucky bounce and they were virtually dead on their feet at the finish, but they had still dished out a lesson to the rugby aristocrats of Toulouse. Make no mistake, the home side were flattered considerably by the margin at the end.

There was not a single weakness in the Glasgow side. But having set the bar high, a few of their players leapt it with a couple of feet to spare. Among the forwards, Kelly Brown and John Barclay were immense, embarrassingly better than their supposedly illustrious opposite numbers, while Graeme Morrison and Thom and Max Evans glistened in the backline.

Glasgow scored three tries in all, and with a little more luck they could have come away from the Stade Ernest Wallon with a four-try bonus point for their troubles.

Instead, staggeringly, it was Toulouse who were scrambling for some consolation at the finish. Will the season produce anything more remarkable than the last action of this match, when replacement back Gaffie du Toit became the motif for Toulouse's troubles as he kicked a penalty to salvage a loser's bonus from the game?

That point could prove critical for Toulouse, who will now face a group decider against Bath at the Recreation Ground next weekend, but it was a fitting symbol of the ignominy of the side.

And their crowd were not in the mood to let them forget it. Toulouse's home ground is a claustrophobic place at the best of times, but it must have felt even smaller still to the home players as they walked off at the end with the derision of their supporters falling about their ears.

The crowd were not for giving English referee Wayne Barnes much of a cheery send-off either, but their later claims that Barnes had cost them the game were balanced only in the sense that they contained equal dollops of both desperation and self-delusion.

Glasgow's victory stands comparison with that remarkable day in Paris, a decade ago, when Scotland humiliated France with a blast of first-half scoring in which they collected five tries in the space of 10 minutes. Certainly, there was something of the same sense of bemusement to look up at the scoreboard behind the posts here after the opening 40 minutes and see that it showed Glasgow leading by 23 points to three.

Out on the pitch, though, the Scottish players did not look the least bit dumbfounded by it all, a number of them later reporting that they actually felt rather comfortable.

Guy Noves, the Toulouse coach, did not share that feeling. When his side returned after the break, they had been shorn of three players, most notably the execrable Frederic Michalak who had made a nonsense of his undoubted talents with a display of improbable hamfistedness.

The Toulouse replacements fared far better than their predecessors, but by then much of the damage had been done.

It had begun with Dan Parks clipping over a straightforward penalty in the ninth minute. The Toulouse supporters had no reason to feel perturbed at that modest deficit, but it was levered open three minutes later when Morrison, followed up a Max Evans grubber kick to get his body over the ball behind the line.

Parks nailed the conversion, and with another penalty soon had Glasgow 13-0 in front.

It still seemed too daring to believe that one of the shocks of Heineken Cup history was on the cards, particularly when Jean-Baptiste Elissalde landed a penalty for Toulouse in the 16th minute.

But when the Evans brothers exchanged passes brilliantly down the left touchline, allowing Barclay, steaming along in support, to deliver the pass that gave Kelly Brown the second try, then suddenly it all looked very interesting indeed.

Toulouse threw everything at Glasgow in the third quarter, and at times it was hard to see how the Scots' resolve could hold. But hold it did, and while Elissalde brought Toulouse back to 23-9 with another two penalties, Parks soon had Glasgow two scores clear with another of his own.

And then, the clinching score. In the 70th minute, Max Evans sent a grubber kick to the right of the Toulouse posts. Hefin O'Hare couldn't quite get to it, but Evans was still chasing and he launched himself at the ball to get the touchdown. Barnes went to the video referee for confirmation, but it was no more than a formality.

Toulouse summoned the pride to collect a penalty try when Glasgow's scrum collapsed in the 72nd minute, then boosted their tally further with a neat score from Vincent Clerc, the right-wing, four minutes later. Briefly, we wondered if Toulouse still had time to win the match; quickly we found out they did not.

Glasgow's players hugged each other on the pitch at the finish, then trotted to the far end of the pitch to applaud their own supporters. The fans had come a long way, in every sense, for this performance and this result, and they will travel far before they ever see the like of it again.

Read the report from The Sunday Herald here

Read the report from Scotland on Sunday here

Read the report from the Sunday Times here

Referee W Barnes (WRFU)
Attendance 19,500
Man of the Match Max Evans
Justin Va'a
Dougie Hall
Moray Low
Dan Turner
Alastair Kellock
James Eddie
John Barclay
Kelly Brown
Colin Gregor
Dan Parks
Thom Evans
Graeme Morrison
Max Evans
Jose Maria Nunez Piossek
Bernardo Stortoni
Fergus Thomson
Ed Kalman
Richie Vernon
John Beattie
Hefin O'Hare
Andrew Henderson
Colin Shaw
Match Substitutions
Off On
James Eddie John Beattie
Off On
Jose Maria Nunez Piossek Hefin O'Hare
Off On
Dougie Hall Fergus Thomson
Off On
Justin Va'a Ed Kalman
Off On
Graeme Morrison Andrew Henderson
Off On
Kelly Brown Richie Vernon
Dan Parks Penalty
Graeme Morrison Try 
Dan Parks Conversion
Dan Parks Penalty
Kelly Brown Try 
Dan Parks Conversion
Dan Parks Drop
Dan Parks Penalty
Max Evans Try 
Dan Parks Conversion
    Posted by ballinj on January 19, 2009 10:04 AM | Reply to this comment

    Bast summing up of the game so far - Une bien mauvaise surprise - from the Toulouse website. Good on Guy Noves for his comments as well, showed some class.

    Posted by MMcEwan on January 19, 2009 10:36 AM | Reply to this comment

    Totally agree. Incidentally, on maybe a slightly trivial note, there's going to be a bit of competition for 'Try Of The Month' this month, eh? Sorry Max (and G-Dog), but Kelly gets my vote.

    Posted by Toulouse jeune équipe on January 20, 2009 06:16 PM | Reply to this comment

    The photo from the French newspaper sums it up. Al Kellock led from the front and his players followed him every step of the way to a great win. Well done boys.

    Posted by Aussie John B frae Eaglesham on January 25, 2009 11:18 AM | Reply to this comment

    Still coming down from the high that was last week's game - ABSOLUTELY RAPT!! Jeeze the emotions a game day can give to the squad, the coaches, the back room & the support - us proud GLASGOW TRAGICS!!

    No best players - a whole squad job - on the park and backroom!

    Newport - we have got to put them to bed today - a big roll up I hope at the stadium of dreams.

    Beaut to see in the crowd shots last week some well kent & familiar faces & HATS!! Hope the hats are lucky ones & wave their helping spirut today.


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