Sunday, May 23, 2010
Toulouse won an unprecedented fourth European Cup trophy as they beat French rivals Biarritz 21-19 at the Stade de France yesterday. Biarritz came close late in the game with a try through league convert Karmichael Hunt, but two drop goals and three penalties from David Skrela, along with a penalty and drop from Florian Fritz, proved the difference in the end.
The highly experienced Toulouse held on for a tense finish after Biarritz had squandered an early 9-3 lead that they probably should have built on. The win is the first for Toulouse since 2005, but their fourth in total.
Biarritz back and England international Ian Balshaw said the best team on the day won.
"I'm gutted to come that close and lose by two points. But for 60 minutes Toulouse dominated the game. We were flat, we weren't combative and we lacked dynamism. Over the 80 minutes the best team won," he said.
"We had a bit of life in us in the last 20 minutes but we were just flat. I'm disappointed for the lads and the fans who travelled up. We were just off the boil and you can't afford to be off the boil against a team like Toulouse," Balshaw added.
Former All Black Byron Kelleher, who has played for Toulouse since signing after the 2007 World Cup, was thrilled with the win. "Year after year, this competition gets tougher," said now 34 year old Kelleher.
"We're just ecstatic to come out as European champions because it really is a challenge. It's been a long, old season but a satisfactory one today."
For Karmichael Hunt, who scored the only try of the day, his stint with Biarritz and Rugby Union is now over. The League convert will now take on another massive challenge as he heads back to Australia to take up an AFL contract on the Gold Coast.
He will be the first professional player to play all three codes, a feat that has even the 23 year old himself a little bemused.
"It is a week away from when I land in Australia and meet my new team-mates and get used to a whole other game. It is all a bit too much to fathom at the moment. But my time at Biarritz has been special.
"It is a crazy adventure but one that I am happy to be on," he added.