European Champions Cup: Toulon 60-22 Ulster

Nicholas Sanchez dives over to score Toulon's first try in Saturday's win over Ulster
Nicholas Sanchez scored the first of Toulon's eight tries at Stade Felix Mayol
Toulon (27) 60
Tries: Sanchez, Habana, Bastareaud, Castrogiovanni, S Armitage 3, Gorgodze Cons: Halfpenny 6 Pens: Halfpenny 2
Ulster (10) 22
Tries: Jackson, McComish 2, Payne Cons: Pienaar

Holders Toulon booked a place in the European Champions Cup quarter-finals as they hammered injury-ravaged Ulster.

After Nicholas Sanchez's early try, scores from Paddy Jackson and Mike McComish cut Toulon's lead to 13-10.

But after Jackson and Louis Ludik were injured, Bryan Habana and Mathieu Bastareaud notched Toulon tries.

Steffon Armitage [three], Martin Castrogiovanni and Mamuka Gorgodze added second-half Toulon tries before replies from Jared Payne and McComish.

Toulon's bonus-point win means that they cannot be caught for top spot in Pool 3.

With Ulster's qualification hopes already over, coach Neil Doak opted to rest his Ireland regulars Rory Best and Tommy Bowe.

And Ulster's playing strength was further reduced as Jackson suffered a suspected dislocated elbow late in the first half after helping to spur Ulster's revival following Sanchez's try.

Full-back Ludik had earlier been forced off by rib damage and Ulster had to press reserve scrum-halves Paul Marshall and Michael Heaney into backline service for the entire second half.

Ulster double try-scorer Mike McComish attempts to outpace Nicholas Sanchez at the Stade Felix Mayol
Mike McComish scored two of Ulster's four tries at the Stade Felix Mayol

Toulon raced into a 10-0 lead after fly-half Sanchez stepped inside Ludik in the second minute with Leigh Halfpenny adding the other five points.

But a pair of tries from Jackson and McComish, either side of another penalty from British and Irish Lions star Halfpenny, left the score at 13-10 on the half hour mark.

However, South Africa wing Habana finished off a sweeping backs move and burly centre Bastareaud rolled his way to score Toulon's third as the home side exploited Ulster's injury woes before the break.

After the champions led 27-10 at half-time, the bonus-point try arrived on 49 minutes as Italy prop Castrogiovanni finished off a set five-metre line-out move.

As the multi-talented Toulon side began to stretch Ulster all over the field, Armitage scored in the right corner after a looping pass from Sebastien Tillous-Borde's and Georgian flanker Gorgodze then finished off a glorious sweeping move involving both backs and forwards.

Armitage's close-range finish brought up Toulon's half-century as Halfpenny continued his stunning goal-kicking display before Payne and McComish replied as Ulster summoned up some brave late resistance to secure their own four-try bonus point.

But Armitage had the last word with his hat-trick after a quickly taken tap penalty.

TEAMS

Toulon: L Halfpenny; D Mitchell, M Bastareaud, M Mermoz, B Habana; N Sanchez, S Tillous-Borde; X Chiocci, G Guirado, M Castrogiovanni; J Suta, R Taofifenua; J Smith, S Armitage, C Masoe (cpt).

Replacements: J-C Orioli for Guirado half-time, F Fresia for Chiocci 56, M Gorgodze for Smith 59, R Wulf for Bastareaud 66, D Smith for Sanchez 69, E Escande for Tillous-Borde 59, K Mikautadze for Suta 64

Not used: C Hayman

Ulster: J Payne; L Ludik, D Cave, S Olding, M Allen; P Jackson, R Pienaar; A Warwick, R Herring, B Ross; A O'Connor, F Van der Merwe; C Ross, M McComish, R Wilson (cpt).

Replacements: J Andrew for R Herring 71, C Black for Warwick 64, D Fitzpatrick for B Ross 52, L Stevenson for van der Merwe 60, R Diack for Wilson 51, P Marshall for Jackson 32, I Humphreys for Ludik 24, M Heaney for Olding 44.

Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)

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