European Champions Cup: Toulouse beat Racing 22-21 in quarter-final thriller
|European Champions Cup|
|Racing 92 (10) 21|
|Tries: Thomas, Chat Con: Machenaud Pens: Machenaud 3|
|Toulouse (19) 22|
|Tries: Dupont 2, Medard Cons: Holmes, Ntamack Pen: Ramos|
A 14-man Toulouse beat Racing 92 in a thrilling all-French Champions Cup quarter-final in Paris to book their place in the last four.
Antoine Dupont scored twice and Maxime Medard also crossed to give the four-time winners a dramatic victory despite the early dismissal of Zack Holmes.
Tries from Teddy Thomas and Camille Chat kept the hosts in the contest but two yellow cards proved costly.
Toulouse now face holders Leinster in a Dublin semi-final on 21 April.
Trailing by six points in the closing minutes, Chat's try gave Racing a chance to take the lead but Maxime Machenaud missed with his conversion attempt.
The home side had one further chance to clinch a win but Leone Nakawara's last-gasp try was ruled out for foul play and Toulouse held on for a stunning victory.
Toulouse finished runners up behind Leinster in the pool stages with the French side winning a one-point contest at the Stade Ernest Wallon but they were heavily beaten in the return match at the Aviva Stadium in January.
La Defence Arena in Paris doubles as a concert venue but the indoor arena could scarcely have witnessed a more spectacular display as both teams played their part in in a thrilling quarter-final.
Toulouse's high-tempo offloading game seemed perfectly suited to the artificial surface and it took them just seven minutes to open the scoring when Thomas failed to properly clear his lines and the visitors showed deft handling to fashion a gap for Dupont to dash over.
Racing responded with a break by Thomas and an offload to Virimi Vakatawa that won a penalty for Machenaud but the home side were still on the back foot until a moment of brilliance by Finn Russell.
Toulouse were camped in the opposition 22 when the Scotland fly-half intercepted a pass by Holmes and then dinked a clever kick for Thomas to chase down and finish a stunning length-of-the-field score.
Toulouse battle back from red card decision
Trailing by three points having dominated a frenetic opening quarter, Toulouse suffered a further blow when Holmes was shown a red card for a high tackle that landed on the throat of Juan Imhoff.
Referee Luke Pearce took his time to review several replays on the giant screen inside the stadium before flashing the red card at the Australian fly-half, who had no argument with the decision.
Racing's numerical advantage was quickly cancelled out when Thomas was sent to the sin bin for cynically killing the ball on the ground and it was Toulouse that ended the first-half in spectacular fashion.
An outrageous no-look offload by Lucas Tauzin created space for Sofiane Guitoune and the centre cut back inside to find Medard running a hard line that took him over for a score.
The former European champions pushed further ahead before the break when Dupont again showed nifty footwork to score underneath the posts.
Racing count the cost
Restored to a full-strength 15 for the start of the second half, Racing began to hit their stride in the suffocating atmosphere and the boot of Machenaud reduced the gap to just three points as the game entered the final quarter.
But the home side's indiscipline again cost them dearly when a Dupont intercept allowed Toulouse to clear their own lines and Imhoff was sent to the sin bin as the Racing defence desperately scrambled back to defend their line, giving Thomas Ramos a chance to kick his side back into a six-point lead.
Last season's beaten finalists desperately sought a way back into the contest and were gifted an opportunity when a line-out spill bounced into the hands of Chat and the replacement hooker barged over the corner.
Machenaud's missed conversion meant Racing still trailed but the hosts thought they had won it at the death when Nakawara drove over the line only for the TMO to spot that the Fijian had been guilty of foul play in the preceding line-out and Toulouse somehow escaped with a dramatic win.
Racing 92: Zebo; Thomas, Vakatawa, Chavancy, Imhoff; Russell, Machenaud; Gogichashvili, Szarzewski, Tameifuna, Ryan, Nakatawa, Chouzenoux, Le Roux, Claassen.
Replacements: Chat (for Szarzewski, 46), Ben Arous (for Gogichashvili, 46), Gomes Sa (for Tameifuna, 46), Bird (for Ryan, 52), Palu (for Claassen, 48), Gibert (for Russell, 78), Volavola (for Thomas, 64), Lauret (for Le Roux, 72).
Sin bin: Thomas 29, Imhoff 67
Toulouse: Kolbe; Tauzin, Guitoune, Ntamack, Medard; Holmes, Dupont; Baille, Mauvaka, Faumuina, Arnold, Gray, Elstadt, Cros, Kaino.
Replacements: Marchand for Mauvaka, 72), Castets (for Baille, 55), Van Dyk (for Faumuina, 58) Tolofua (for Kaino, 58), Faasalele (for Elstadt, 55), Bezy (for Cros, 25), Ramos (for Medard, 56), Ahki (for Ntamack, 55).
Sent off: Holmes 23
Referee: Luke Pearce