A brave Connacht effort, which looked like repeating their shock 2013 win here, came up short in the end as Andy Friend’s men left Toulouse without a point to show for their efforts.
It was a cruel outcome for an understrength Connacht side who at least deserved a bonus point but they suffered further agony when their former centre Pita Ahki got Toulouse’s fourth try with the clock in the red.
Connacht were well in contention when they trailed by just 15-14 at the interval having spent the closing ten minutes of the half with flanker Colby Fainga’a in the bin after a tackle on Toulouse out-half Romain Ntamack which had the home crowd screaming for a red card, especially when the French international had to go off for a HIA.
Connacht had to saturate enormous pressure before they stunned Toulouse when Tom Farrell cut the centre after an initial break by Ultan Dillane to score under the posts after 13 minutes.
The Toulouse response was instant and having butchered a couple of earlier attempts, the French champions got in when scrum-half Sébastien Bézy finished a move started by his full-back Matt Healy.
Thomas Ramos converted and then added a penalty as their superiority in the scrum continued, with Connacht not helping their cause with a couple of crooked lineouts.
But Andy Friend’s men again hit the front after 25 minutes when a superb break by Fainga’a allowed Caolin Blade time to change his run and the scrum-half raced in to score, with Conor Fitzgerald’s second conversion making it 14-10.
The yellow card to Fainga’a led to the home side opting for a scrum from a penalty in front of the posts and a few phases later Yoann Huget, the only Toulouse survivor from Connacht’s shock win here six years ago, finished in the right corner despite the best efforts of Kyle Godwin. Ramos was unable to add the touchline conversion and Toulouse had to be content with a one-point interval lead.
Connacht again had to defend stoutly after the restart but they grew in confidence and took the game to Toulouse and edged back in front with a drop goal from the superb Fitzgerald after 50 minutes.
Both sides began emptying their benches before Ramos pushed Toulouse back in front with a penalty from 35 metres going into the final quarter as the rain belted down in front of the crowd of 15,100.
Incessant Toulouse pressure pushed them clear when Jerome Kaino squeezed over after a series of drives following another penalty to the corner. Ramos, crucially, added the conversion from the left to leave eight between them with 16 minutes left.
Connacht pressed on looking for at least the bonus point and almost got back in contention when Jack Carty chipped to the left but Healy was unable to hold the greasy ball and the chance was lost.
Worse was to follow when their former player Ahki snatched the try bonus point with the clock in the red.
Scorers for Toulouse: Tries: S Bézy, Y Huges, J Kaino, P Ahki; Conversions: T Ramos (3); Penalties: T Ramos (2).
Scorers for Connacht: Tries: T Farrell, C Blade; Conversions: C Fitzgerald (2); Drop-goal: C Fitzgerald.
Toulouse: T Ramos; Y Huget, S Guitoune, L Tauzin, M Médard; R Ntamack, S Bézy; C Baille, P Mauvaka, C Faumuina; R Gray, J Tekori; A Placines, R Elstadt, J Kaino.
Replacements: P Ahki for Ntamack (30, HIA), Ntamack for Ahki (40), T du Toit for Baille (50), F Cros for Placines (50), J Marchandt for Mauvaka (52), D Aldegheri for Faumuina (55), R Arnold for Tekori (55), Baille for du Toit (64), Ahki for Tauzin (66), S Tolofua for Elstadt (68), P Pages for Bézy (71).
Connacht: M Healy; J Porch, T Farrell, T Daly, K Godwin; C Fitzgerald, C Blade; P McCabe, D Heffernan, D Robertson-McCoy; U Dillane, Q Roux, E Masterson, C Fainga’a, R Copeland.
Replacements: S Delahunt for Heffernan (50), M Burke for McCabe (50), F Bealham for Robertson-McCoy (50), P Boyle for Copeland (51), P Robb for Daly (58), J Carty for Farrell (63), J Maksymiw for Dillane (70), A Lloyd for Blade (70).
Referee: Karl Dickson (England).
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