Stade Toulouse, not yet at full speed in the championship, set the record straight in the Champions Cup, launching its campaign on Saturday with an improved victory against Cardiff (52-7), with a double from its new player Blair Kinghorn.
We found Antoine Dupont! A little less “flamboyant” than usual, by his own admission, since his return from the World Cup, the gondola head of French rugby had even been the subject of some criticism.
The scrum half, leggy and very present defensively, took great pleasure in responding with a full match against the Welsh who were clearly inferior to this Toulouse.
“I felt good, like the team,” he said after the match. “When everyone is together and you play scrum half, it’s easier, I had solutions every time I carried the ball.”
Dupont did not score, but made several classy gestures, such as this pass in the interval for Pierre-Louis Barassi (37th), also author of a great performance, or his welcome gift to Kinghorn.
The great Scottish full-back, who only arrived at the start of the week on the banks of the Garonne to compensate for the departure of Melvyn Jaminet to Toulon, took only 26 minutes to score his first try in his new colors, on a serve from his captain .
“I think he will be happy with his first match here. He will remember it,” commented Dupont. “We know his individual qualities, we had no doubts. I think he appreciates our playing philosophy. I think he will integrate very quickly.
Aldegheri injured in the neck
Toulouse’s Thibaud Flament takes a ball into touch against Cardiff in the European Cup in Toulouse on December 9, 2023 / Valentine CHAPUIS / AFP
Kinghorn must not have been too disoriented by the weather, with heavy rain which did not prevent the five-time European champions from securing the offensive bonus in the first half after a beautiful combination concluded by Anthony Jelonch on a penalty played by hand.
Matthis Lebel, returning to the wing after having recently played at full-back, and Australian second row Richie Arnold, scored the first two tries in the first ten minutes.
We quickly understood that there would not be much suspense for the reigning French champions against a playful and determined Cardiff team, but too limited.
The remake of the first final in the history of the European Cup, won in 1996 by Toulouse, slowed down slightly in the second half, once the bonus had been acquired.
Arthur Retière, Alban Placines and Kinghorn, again, after the siren, still participated in the offensive festival (seven tries in total).
Toulouse’s Thomas Ramos against Cardiff in the European Cup in Toulouse on December 9, 2023 / Valentine CHAPUIS / AFP
New Zealand right pillar Nepo Laulala also showed off his new jersey by replacing David Ainu’u, who started at the last minute after Dorian Aldegheri suffered neck pain during the warm-up.
Toulouse, who fell in the last four of the last two editions of the Champions Cup, should have the task a little tougher next week in London on the Harlequins pitch.