Zürcher Nachrichten - Baloucoune scores hat-trick as Ulster down Toulouse

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Baloucoune scores hat-trick as Ulster down Toulouse
Baloucoune scores hat-trick as Ulster down Toulouse

Baloucoune scores hat-trick as Ulster down Toulouse

Robert Baloucoune bagged a hat-trick of tries to help Ulster notch up a memorable 26-20 victory over defending champions Toulouse in the first leg of the last-16 European Champions Cup round of matches on Saturday.

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The Ireland winger shone not only in attack but also as part of strong defensive showing by the Irish province against a star-studded Toulouse side boasting 10 of France's Grand Slam-winning squad, but down to 14 for 70 minutes of an entertaining match after a red card for Argentina winger Juan Cruz Mallia.

France captain and Six Nations player of the tournament Antoine Dupont was to the fore in early exchanges in Toulouse, Emmanuel Meafou eventually crashing through three tackles for the home side's opening try, Thomas Ramos hitting the conversion.

Then came the hammer blow, English referee Wayne Barnes left with no option but to brandish red for Mallia after the winger inexplicably took out a player in the air.

Ulster made their numerical advantage pay immediately, Baloucoune played in at the corner after Matthis Lebel was sucked off his wing.

Ramos hit a penalty on the buzzer to leave Toulouse at 13-7 at half-time.

But Ulster would not sit down, Baloucoune grabbing his second try in the fifth minute of the second period after a strong break and offload by Stuart McCloskey.

Ulster then proceeded to dominate possession and territory, replacement prop Andrew Warwick dotting down for the Irish province's third try from close range, Jon Cooney hitting his second conversion.

Toulouse hit back, Pita Akhi at the heart of their attack. But there was one too many forced passes, Baloucoune pouncing to sprint 70 metres for his hat-trick, Cooney bagging the extras to make it 26-13 with 15 minutes to play.

Romain Ntamack scored a consolation try, converted by Ramos, and with a minute to go Ramos streaked up the field.

The ball was recycled, but Dupont knocked on and the whistle was blown for the end of the game.

Earlier Saturday, La Rochelle coach Ronan O'Gara ensured more woe for Christophe Urios as his side sauntered to a 31-13 victory over Bordeaux-Begles.

O'Gara was involved in a bad-tempered touchline spat with Urios last weekend when La Rochelle ran out 16-15 victors in the Top 14.

Urios aimed a slap at the ex-Ireland international, later dubbing him an "insufferable" trouble maker.

The pair are to appear before a disciplinary committee next week over the incident.

There was no chance for a secondary confrontation on Saturday, however, as O'Gara is currently serving a two-week touchline ban for having previously criticised refereeing standards in another La Rochelle league match.

But his side did not disappoint, Kiwi fly-half Ihaia West hitting four penalties and a conversion as Raymond Rhule and Jonathan Danty, along with a penalty try, made the difference.

France lock Cameron Woki and Italian Federico Mori crossed for Bordeaux-Begles, who only managed only one Maxime Lucu penalty in a toothless first-half.

The second early match saw Fijian centre Semi Radradra score the only try of the game as Bristol registered a 10-9 victory over English Premiership rivals Sale.

X.Blaser--NZN