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Toulouse and Ulster in finely balanced affair

Thursday 7th April 2022

1:14 pm (GMT)

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Toulouse and Ulster in finely balanced affair

Ethan McIlroy celebrates scoring Ulster's third try against Northampton Saints in Round 2

All signs point towards the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 first leg between Stade Toulousain and Ulster Rugby on Saturday being an evenly-matched encounter.

The teams have faced off 12 times in the competition – including an entertaining opening-round clash last season – and have won five games each, drawing once.

Toulouse, who progressed to the knockout stage after coming seventh in Pool A, have won nine of their previous 10 home knockout games in the competition.

Meanwhile, Ulster, who claimed victory in all four of their Pool A games to finish second, have lost four of their previous five away games in the knockout stage.

The contest at Le Stadium kicks off at 15:15 UK and Irish time, and is being televised live on BT Sport, beIN SPORTS and FR 2.

Other key stats:

  • Toulouse’s only defeat in their last 10 home knockout games in the European Cup came against Leinster at the quarter-final stage of the 2005/06 season (35-41).
  • Stade Toulousain have won each of their last 10 games at home in the Heineken Champions Cup, with an average winning margin of 15.7 points. Ulster, meanwhile, have won four of their last seven away games in the competition (L3), although two of their three losses have come against French opposition.
  • Ulster’s only win in the knockout stage of the European Cup came against Munster in the quarter-finals in 2011/12 (16-22).
  • Toulouse have conceded more turnovers per game than any other team in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (20), while Ulster have conceded the joint-fewest turnovers amongst all teams remaining in the competition (9).
  • Ulster have enjoyed the most possession, on average, of any side in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (56%). They also rank fifth for time spent in opposition territory (55%), while Toulouse are fourth from last amongst teams still in the competition when it comes to territory percentage (49%).
  • Toulouse’s Peato Mauvaka has the joint-best lineout throwing success rate amongst all players in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (min.12 attempts), having found his man with 25 of his 26 throws (96%, alongside Racing 92 hooker Teddy Baubigny).
  • No player has averaged more meters (171) or defenders beaten (11) per game in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup than Toulouse scrum-half Antoine Dupont.
  • No player has completed more tackles in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup than Ulster’s Nick Timoney (56), with his 89% completion rate also being the second highest of all players to have attempted at least 50 tackles this campaign.
  • Ulster full-back Michael Lowry has carried 563 meters in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup, a competition-high and almost 200 meters more than second-placed Alivereti Raka (382). Ulster’s James Hume ranks third on 379.

Key quote:

Ulster captain Iain Henderson: “We know we have put hard work in over the last fortnight and the buzz and excitement will start to grow this week as it always does around the European Cup.”

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Baloucoune hat-trick as Ulster win at Toulouse

Saturday 9th April 2022

5:28 pm (GMT)

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Baloucoune hat-trick as Ulster win at Toulouse

Ulster's Robert Baloucoune goes over for a try against Stade Toulousain in the Heineken Champions Cup

Wing Rob Baloucoune scored a hat-trick of tries as Ulster Rugby won 26-20 at 14-man Stade Toulousain in the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 first leg on Saturday.

The Irish province will take their lead into the second leg at Kingspan Stadium next week, but Toulouse, who saw wing Juan Cruz Mallía sent off early on, are well in the contest thanks to scores from Emmanuel Meafou and Romain Ntamack.

Toulouse looked sharp from the outset and crossed for a try with six minutes played, lock Emmanuel Meafou smashing over from close range after some slick handling. Full-back Thomas Ramos added the extras.

But the reigning champions would suffer a major setback on 11 minutes as wing Cruz Mallía was shown a red card for taking out Ulster counterpart Ben Moxham in the air.

Ulster immediately sensed blood and mounted an assault on the Toulouse line, eventually sending Baloucoune over in corner, scrum-half John Cooney’s conversion levelling the scores.

But the TOP 14 outfit were able to stifle Ulster, and even threatened their opponents’ line on a couple of occasions, Ramos kicking a penalty on 17 minutes to put them back in front.

And the hosts continued to frustrate Ulster for the remainder of the half, disrupting lineout ball and repelling a series of attacks close to their line, with a second Ramos penalty on 40 minutes seeing them head into the break with a six-point lead.

Ulster made an excellent start to the second half as centre Stuart McCloskey broke clear and teed up Baloucoune, who raced over for his second try of the afternoon. They would still trail, however, as Cooney’s conversion attempt drifted wide.

And Toulouse almost extended their advantage as an outrageous move featuring a series of offloads saw them dot down, only for a TMO review to spot a knock-on at a breakdown.

But it would be Ulster who would get over for the game’s next try – they pounded away at the Toulouse defence for an extended period before replacement prop Andy Warwick reached out to dot down, Cooney adding the extras to build a six-point lead.

Toulouse threatened to respond as their offloading game caused problems, but Baloucoune picked off a floated pass and ran the length of the field to score his hat-trick try on 67 minutes, with Cooney once again converting.

Toulouse would finish with a flourish, however, producing more scintillating running rugby to send fly-half Ntamack over with seconds left on the clock, with Ramos’ conversion reducing the arrears to six points heading into next week’s game.

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