Pienaar helps Ulster rout Toulouse

Ruan Pienaar (Gallo)
Ruan Pienaar (Gallo)

Paris - Ulster handed four-time champions Toulouse a 38-0, five-try rout on Friday to kickstart their European Cup campaign and leave the French giants facing elimination in the pool stages for a second successive season.

After losing their opening Pool 1 fixture at home to Saracens, Ulster were a transformed side at Ravenhill with South African scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar playing a crucial, match-winning role.

It was Ulster's fourth win in their last five home matches against Toulouse in Belfast.

Defeat also meant Toulouse have lost two of their opening three games in the tournament.

"We just had to make sure we sucked the life out of their play," Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss told the BBC.

"We had a few more guys out because of injury but the boys didn't allow that to hijack themselves and say: 'Poor me'."

Ulster were boosted at the start by the return of hooker Rory Best to captain the side while Toulouse lost winger Maxime Medard in the warm-up and influential No8 Louis Picamoles with a shoulder injury early in the first half.

The Irish side were on the scoreboard after 23 minutes when giant Kiwi No8 Nick Williams barrelled over despite the presence of two defenders after Franco van der Merwe had created the opening.

Paddy Jackson added the extras just before Toulouse had their first player sin-binned, Sebastien Bezy getting the yellow-card for an infringement at the ruck.

Jackson popped over the resulting penalty for 10-0.

At the other end, Toby Flood missed a second penalty of the half but at least had the consolation of seeing Ulster reduced to 14 men when Williams was yellow carded.

Two minutes from the interval, Ulster were 17-0 ahead when Pienaar recovered from a crude trip by Yacouba Camara to feed Andrew Trimble before the winger chipped ahead to catch his own kick for the score.

Jackson was deadly accurate with another conversion.

Pienaar was the inspiration again when Ulster grabbed a third try.

His smart cross-field punt left a stretched Toulouse defence flat-footed, allowing centre Luke Marshall to score.

Despite being tight to the touchline, Jackson slotted over the conversion for 24-0.

Toulouse were shell-shocked and Stuart McCloskey slalomed over for the bonus-point fourth try with a more comfortable conversion following for Jackson with still more than 20 minutes to play.

Van der Merwe added the fifth try from a driving maul with replacement kicker Ian Humphreys hitting the extras from a difficult angle for 38-0.

The two sides meet again in France next weekend.

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