Harlequins 19-47 Toulouse: Antoine Dupont inspires dominant visitors

Harlequins 19-47 Toulouse: Antoine Dupont inspires dominant visitors to seven-try Champions Cup triumph at The Stoop… with France’s World Cup heartbreak driving the superstar’s quest for European glory

  • Antoine Dupont drove Toulouse onto victory in their Champions Cup victory
  • The French superstar is driving Toulouse on in competitions this season
  • France’s Rugby World Cup heartbreak has only drove the superstar on 

Antoine Dupont is hurting from the World Cup and it is driving him and Toulouse in their quest for a sixth Champions Cup title – which was bad news for Harlequins, as they were put to the sword.

France’s captain is a bona fide sporting superstar and that much was evident from the reaction to his presence at The Stoop. Having led the hosts a merry dance as the Top 14 champions scored seven tries in this mis-match, Dupont had dejected home fans clamouring for a glimpse of him, a picture or an autograph, when he visited the media room to give his post-match verdict.

While waiting patiently for his turn to speak, the scrum-half and Gallic poster-boy watched Stade Francais’s encounter with Leicester, before fielding questions in French, then in English. He will soon turn his attentions to Sevens, to prepare for a role in France’s campaign at the Olympics, but he also wants to help Toulouse – the only five-star club in the history of European rugby – to conquer all-comers in this event again.

Being ejected from a home World Cup at the quarter-final stage has added fuel to the fire within. ‘It’s always the same when you lose a competition; you want to do another thing to win again,’ said Dupont. ‘We needed some weeks to join in with this group (squad) again, to be together so we could be competitive again.

‘It was a big competition, the World Cup – and it will be the same with the Olympics and Champions Cup. It is going to be a busy year for me! This is always a special competition for us, the Champions Cup, and we are very motivated for this competition.’

Toulouse thrashed British hosts, Harlequins, 47-19 in Sunday’s European Champions Cup

Antoine Dupont’s World Cup heartbreak is driving him and Toulouse on this season

Dupont was at the heart of every positive piece of Toulouse’ play as they secured a seven-try win

Harlequins came into this Pool 2 fixture on a roll, having stunned mighty Racing 92 in Paris seven days earlier. But they simply could not live with the power and fluency of these French opponents. Toulouse turned a fast-and-loose contest into a dazzling exhibition of their attacking repertoire; illuminating The Stoop with their running lines and off-loads and sheer daring spirit.

Dupont was actually up-staged by Thomas Ramos – as was Marcus Smith. The visitors’ No 10 is primarily a full-back but he continues to do a sterling job of filling in at fly-half. He kicked six out of seven conversions, pulled the strings with aplomb and claimed his side’s last try for a personal haul of 17 points.

Minutes before that final contribution to this rout, Ramos had antagonised Smith as the England playmaker appeared to suggest he had taken a dive. But it was Quins who took a fall after their heroics in Paris and it was a bruising occasion for Smith, who was hit high and fractionally late in the second half by massive Toulouse lock Emmanuel Meafou, who not only avoided any sanction for the ugly tackle but was later named Man of the Match.

In the first half, tries by Andre Esterhuizen and Irne Herbst had kept the hosts in the hunt, in front of a full house of their expectant supporters, who had come in the hope of seeing a major scalp being claimed. But a 10-minute interlude to allow for Quins lock Dino Lamb to be treated and stretchered off – after a clash of heads with Pita Ahki, who was shown a yellow card – appeared to disrupt their early momentum and they never fully regained it.

Dupont is hurting after France’s Rugby World Cup failure but that’s only driving him on

Toulouse must be regarded – yet again – as prime contenders for the coveted prize 

‘We could have performed better but Toulouse were outstanding,’ said Quins captain Alex Dombrandt. ‘They have stars across their team and when the game gets a bit loose, they are one of the best teams in the world.’

Asked about Lamb, the skipper added: ‘I’m not sure how he is, but hopefully it’s nothing serious. We got off to a good start and that injury took the sting out of the game a bit, but the main thing is that Dino is alright.’

It felt like a match which laid bare the gulf between the upper echelons of the French club game and the Premiership’s standard-bearers. But for Quins, despite this savage setback, prospects of reaching the last 16 remain high, ahead of pool games next month in Cardiff and at home against Ulster.

As for Toulouse, they must be regarded – yet again – as prime contenders for the coveted prize. Dupont, Ramos and Co have it firmly in their sights.

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