Perpignan 21-13 Toulouse, Top 14 semi-final
Ruthless Porical sees Perpignan home
May 14, 2010
Perpignan will defend their title at the Stade de France
© Getty Images
Perpignan will defend their title in the Top 14 final at the Stade de France after defeating Toulouse 21-13 in their semi-final at the Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier.
Toulouse's 20-year-old scrum-half Nicolas Bezy scored the only try of the game after seven minutes but the boot of Jerome Porical proved to be decisive, the Perpignan fullback slotting seven penalties to keep alive their hopes of back-to-back championships.
Perpignan were roared onto the field by the huge crowd, with the noise no doubt getting the blood flowing after a three-week layoff since their thrashing of Albi. Toulouse, in contrast, had been running hot given their exertions in seeing off Leinster and Castres in recent weeks to ensure that their chances of a remarkable domestic and European double remained alive.
In the build up to the game the Toulouse camp kept on message and the Heineken Cup was talked up as their absolute priority. This was reflected in Guy Noves' team selection as Thierry Dusautoir, William Servat and Vincent Clerc made way for Finau Maka, Virgile Lacombe and Vilimoni Delasau. With Byron Kelleher rested and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde injured, scrum-half duties were handled by Bezy inside David Skrela at fly-half.
The opening whistle dispelled any notions that the rouge et noir were making up the numbers as they swarmed to stop the first surge from Perpignan's Samoan powerhouse Henry Tuilagi. Florian Fritz then fired a warning shot with a 50m penalty falling just wide of Perpignan's uprights and skipper Jean Bouilhou found open space after cutting through the line of blood and gold, only to ignore the support on his outside.
Perpignan then grabbed a foothold with a sniping break from Maxime Mermoz, who arched past his rival for the French No.12 jersey, Yannick Jauzion, to get his side moving. Mermoz's jab was followed by an instinctive counter from Toulouse which led to a wonderful team try. Shaun Sowerby secured a turnover on his 22, snatching the ball and firing a short pass to Jauzion. Fritz offered support outside and found an offload to Clement Poitrenaud, who delayed a crucial second before releasing Skrela for the line. The fly-half had the legs on Christophe Manas but turned the ball inside for the onrushing Bezy to score under the sticks.
Skrela converted but Noves was left fuming as Perpignan immediately snatched three points back from the restart. Sloppy play led to a penalty and a languid strike from Porical raised the flags. The fullback slotted two further three-pointers either side of one from Skrela, who extended Toulouse's lead before the half-hour mark after Perpignan had been unfortunate to see a counter attack from deep break down after a crushing hit on Farid Sid.
Despite falling behind Perpignan dominated possession, with Nicolas Durand, bound for Racing Metro next season, orchestrating play off strong ball retention from his pack. Mermoz sniped and probed against his former club but was unable to break through, with Tuilagi also well marshalled by Bouilhou when Toulouse's resistance looked set to break. Energised by their efforts Perpignan came agonisingly close to answering Toulouse's champagne try with one of their own, but Manas could only knock on when presented with an offload following a superb scything break orchestrated by David Marty and executed by Porical.
Half-time came and went with no further score but Perpignan hit back immediately after the break. Their powerful scrum splintered Toulouse, who brought on Benoit Lecouls and Jean-Baptiste Poux at the break, and Porical hammered over the penalty from inside his own half to narrow the deficit to one.
To the delight of their fans Perpignan were soon ahead thanks to more inroads at the scrummage. This time it was hooker Guilhem Guirado who received pats on the back before Porical secured the lead for the first time in the game. Their running game also sparked into life as Sid and Hume attacked at the heart of the Toulouse defence, but the play broke down with some poor handling and quickly descended into an ugly scrap between Nicolas Mas and Delasau, with the Toulouse wing gesturing to referee Romain Poite that his eyes had been targeted.
Perpignan continued to dominate possession as Toulouse introduced a horde of replacements and Porical extended the lead after Jauzion had failed to release in the tackle. The fullback's radar failed him for the first time as the clock ticked past 70 minutes and Perpignan were forced to dig deep to repel waves of Toulouse attacks in the dying moments of the game. An illegal shoulder charge brought a penalty the way of the champions and the pendulum swung for the final time, with Toulouse unable to muster a killer blow and Porical on hand to stroke home his seventh penalty to start the fans dreaming of Paris.