THIERRY DUSAUTOIR STANDS in the press room at The Sportsground and explains that his team beat Connacht because they respect small teams. He stops himself mid-sentence to clarify that Connacht are small only in terms of budget.
The Toulouse captain was eager, following his team’s 37-9 win on Saturday, to pay his regards to a team that massively dented their Heineken Cup ambitions by shocking them seven days earlier. The four-time European Cup champions were guilty of underestimating Connacht once. They did not repeat the mistake.
Maxime Medard crossed for two superb, first-half tries before Christopher Tolofua, Gael Fickou and the excellent Louis Picamoles finished Pat Lam’s flu-stricken squad off. “It wasn’t easy to win here, in this way, but we took the bonus point,” said Dusautoir. “It was important to us [considering] how bad we were last week — when we want to play at this level and respect our jersey.
“We played with a different spirit and our strategy was better. I think our first try shows how much we studied our defeat last week.” Indeed, video footage would have shown Toulouse about Connacht’s tendency to commit a swathe of players to attacks and Fionn Carr’s desire to edge upfield in search of the ball. By achieving turnovers, and plenty of them, the French side could exploit the acres of space in behind Connacht’s first and second waves.
“It’s weird,” Dusautoir confessed, “because on one hand we are really happy with what we did today but, on the other, we are disappointed about last week. Tonight, we respected the Connacht team and we have been rewarded.”
Dusautoir wants to add another star to the Toulouse badge, displayed here by man-of-the-match Louis Picamoles. INPHO/James Crombie
While Toulouse were placing European rugby back on its axis, Saracens were scoring 64 points at home to Zebre. The winner of next month’s meeting between the sides will determine the pool winner. The fight shown by Connacht in Pool 3 mean a best placed runner-up spot may prove out of reach.
Dusautoir said, “Now we are thinking about winning at home against Saracens in January. We can only think about this and getting out of the pool. If you asked last week, it might have been different but now we just want to get to the quarter final of the Heineken Cup. We have to win against Saracens to [have a chance].
“The Heineken Cup is really important to us. On my jersey, you can see [the badge] with the four titles. You can see what it means to us. We don’t put a priority on one championship or the other. We just play with our maximum effort and try to win everything.”
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