Antoine Dupont shines as Toulouse outclass understrength Cardiff

Welsh side decimated by Covid isolations after South Africa trip put up battling display

Cardiff 7 Toulouse 39

Cardiff produced a battling display despite their ravaged playing resources in going down to a 39-7 defeat against European champions Toulouse at the Arms Park.

The Heineken Champions Cup pool clash took place against a backdrop of more than 30 Cardiff players and a number of staff, including rugby director Dai Young, isolating until next week.

Cardiff had been due to play United Rugby Championship fixtures in South Africa last month, and had already arrived there when it became a UK government red-listed country as fresh travel restrictions were imposed following the discovery of a new coronavirus variant.


With such a large group isolating at a hotel near London on returning from South Africa, it meant a team comprising Wales internationals, who did not travel, semi-professionals and academy players being fielded against the European title holders.

Toulouse, though, were made to work every inch of the way for what was ultimately a bonus point victory, although they did not secure a five-point maximum until 12 minutes from time.

Typically, it was their newly-crowned world player of the year Antoine Dupont, who provided them with masterful direction.

He scored one try and set up scores for flanker Anthony Jelonch, centre Pita Ahki and wing Arthur Bonneval, with Joe Tekori also touching down, while Romain Ntamack kicked two penalties and four conversions.

Cardiff deserve considerable credit for even managing to fulfil the fixture amid such circumstances — and a crowd of just over 10,000 roared them on — with centre Josh Adams providing a highlight through his first-half try that Jason Tovey converted.

But they also had fullback Jacob Beetham sent off, who departed after 74 minutes following a dangerous shoulder-led tackle.

Ntamack kicked Toulouse into a seventh-minute lead, and although he doubled Toulouse’s advantage through another short-range strike nine minutes later, Cardiff could reflect on a solid opening.

They enjoyed set-piece parity during the opening quarter, and also created an attacking opportunity when Beetham almost found wing Dan Fish.

And that promise bore fruition through a 20th-minute try when Cardiff gained an attacking scrum after Toulouse fullback Maxime Medard kicked the ball behind the dead-ball line.

A solid platform gave scrumhalf Tomos Williams quality ball, and his pass to Wales international Adams saw him touch down between the posts, with Tovey converting.

But it served only to stir Toulouse, and they responded rapidly as Dupont’s cross-field break saw him find Ntamack in support, and he delivered a scoring pass to Jelonch, before Ntamack’s conversion made it 13-7.

Cardiff continued to mix it well, yet they fell further behind on the stroke of half-time following more Dupont magic.

His elusive, weaving running played havoc with Cardiff’s defence, and when the home side ran out of numbers, Ahki applied a ruthless finish, and another Ntamack conversion made it 20-7 at the interval.

Cardiff began the second period in assertive fashion, and skipper Ellis Jenkins was hauled down by two Toulouse tacklers just five metres from the line.

Toulouse punished their hosts through a 57th-minute score for Dupont, who sprinted clear after a Cardiff lineout went astray, and Ntamack’s conversion opened a 20-point gap.

Dupont was at it again eight minutes later, this time kicking to the corner, with Bonneval taking a clean catch at pace, and Toulouse could reflect on a case of job done after Tekori’s try as Cardiff played the last six minutes a player down following Beetham’s dismissal.

Cardiff: Beetham; Cabango, Adams, Halaholo, Fish; Tovey, Williams; Jenkins; Harris; Davies-King; Lawrence, Davies; Jenkins, Robinson, Botham.

Replacements: Yardley, Cowell, James, Anstey, Everett, Lloyd, Evans, Wilkins.

Toulouse: Medard; Bonneval, Guitoune, Ahki, Lebel; Ntamack, Dupont; Baille, Mauvaka, Aldegheri; Flament, Meafou, Cros, Jelonch, Tolofua.

Replacements: Marchand, Neti, Tafili, Tekori, Youyoutte, Miquel, Germain, Mallia.