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European Champions Cup: Gutsy Oyonnax condemn our boys to bottom

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 23/11/2015

On the ball: Timoci Matanavou went over for Toulouse
On the ball: Timoci Matanavou went over for Toulouse

Ulster are now the only side without a point in Pool 1 after Toulouse secured a hard-earned 24-18 Champions Cup victory over fellow Top 14 outfit Oyonnax at the Stade Ernest Wallon on Saturday afternoon.

The victors, having lost comprehensively to Saracens at Allianz Park one week prior, were in dire need of the win ahead of the double-header with Ulster next month but it was Oyonnax, playing their first game in the competition after last week's meeting with Les Kiss' side was postponed, who led 6-3 at the turn thanks to a pair of penalties from the boot of Regis Lespinas.

An upset, which would have suited Ulster, appeared to be on the cards but the hosts - four-time winners of Europe's top competition - ran in three tries in the second-half through Timoci Matanavou, Maxime Medard and Gael Fickou to secure the four points.

They did, however, fail to clinch a full five-point haul thanks to their inability to add a fourth try while also letting Oyonnax in for a late score that ensured a losing bonus point.

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With three minutes gone in the second-half, Matanavou became the first try-scorer of the day when Toulouse kicked for the corner and, while the maul was halted, the backs were released for the Fijian wing to dot down underneath the posts.

Sparked into life, Toulouse attacked through Louis Picamoles, the Northampton-bound No.8 and a rare bright light in France's disastrous World Cup. He was stopped just short following a trademark run but, again, the backline were able apply the finishing touch with the determined wing Medard forcing his way over.

With just eight minutes to go, Oyonnax hauled their way back into the contest when a brilliant break from Fetu'u Vainikolo allowed Silvere Tian to set Vincent Martin clear and he reduced the deficit to just six points.

Chris Wyles (R) of Saracens goes over for a try during the European Champions Cup Pool 1 rugby game at Kingspan Stadium between Ulster and Saracens. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Chris Wyles (R) of Saracens goes over for a try during the European Champions Cup Pool 1 rugby game at Kingspan Stadium between Ulster and Saracens. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Ulster's Iain Henderson on a charge against Saracens during Friday's European Champions Cup clash at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye.
Ulster's Iain Henderson and Saracens' Ako Vunipola during Friday's European Champions Cup clash at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye.
Ulster's Iain Henderson takes the ball during the European Champions Cup match at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Saracens' Chris Ashton is challenged by Ulster's Craig Gilroy during the European Champions Cup match at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Saracens' George Kruis is challenged during the European Champions Cup match at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Ulster's Paddy Jackson is challenged by Saracens' Jacques Burger during the European Champions Cup match at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Saracens' Schalk Brits (centre) is challenged by Ulster's Franco van der Merwe during the European Champions Cup match at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Stuart McCloskey (R) of Ulster and Alex Goode (L) of Saracens during the European Champions Cup Pool 1 rugby game at Kingspan Stadium. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Ruan Pienaar (R) of Ulster and Owen Farrell (L) of Saracens during the European Champions Cup Pool 1 rugby game at Kingspan Stadium. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Saracens' Maro Itoje is challenged by Ulster's Darren Cave during the European Champions Cup match at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Saracens' Chris Wyles scores a try during the European Champions Cup match at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Saracens' Chris Wyles scores a try during the European Champions Cup match at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Saracens' Chris Ashton (centre) is challenged by Ulster's Darren Cave during the European Champions Cup match at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Ulster's Paddy Jackson kicks a drop goal against Saracens during Friday night's European Champions Cup clash at the Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Ulster's Nick Williams battles against Saracens Duncan Taylor and Maro Itoje during Friday's European Champions Cup clash at the Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Saracens' Schalk Brits is challenged by Ulster's Franco van der Merwe during the European Champions Cup match at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Ulster's Iain Henderson challenges Saracens' Billy Vunipola during the European Champions Cup match at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Players and fans observe a minutes silence for the Paris Attacks and in memory of Jonah Lomu who passed away this week, before the European Champions Cup match at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Saracens during a minute silence before the European Champions Cup clash against Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye.
Saracens' Jacques Burger during warm before the European Champions Cup clash against Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye.
Saracens' Owen Farrell before the European Champions Cup clash against Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye.
Ulster's Allen Clarke and Sarcens' Mark McCall before the European Champions Cup clash against Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye.
Ulster's Iain Henderson and Saracens' Michael Rhodes during Friday's European Champions clash at the Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye.
Ulster's Craig Gilroy and Saracens' Mako Vunipola during Friday's European Champions clash at the Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye.

When lightning-footed centre Fickou burst through a hole in the visitors defence and accelerated his way to the line, the contest appeared to be over but there was to be another twist.

As Toulouse chased the all-important fourth score, the ball went loose and when an attempted offload went awry, scrum-half Fabian Cibray gathered to race up the touchline without a hand being laid on him.

Former Welsh fly-half Nicky Robinson nailed the testing conversion to secure the losing bonus point, meaning Oyonnax at least have something on the board ahead of two meetings with pool favourites Saracens in December.

Belfast Telegraph

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