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European Champions Cup: Gutsy Oyonnax condemn our boys to bottom

By Jonathan Bradley

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.

Read more:

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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.

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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