Five-star Toulouse rule Euro rugby again

·2-min read

Richie Arnold got injured early in the game but his identical 6ft 10in twin Rory powered on as the giant Australian duo helped Toulouse lift European club rugby's biggest prize, the Champions Cup.

It was a record fifth European crown for Toulouse as they defeated their 14-man rivals la Rochelle 22-17 in all-French arm wrestle at Twickenham on Saturday.

La Rochelle centre Levani Botia became the first man to be sent off in a Champions Cup final and the underdogs eventually paid as Toulouse ground down their opposition down despite being second-best up front.

Richie Arnold had to leave the pitch with injury within the first 10 minutes of the match, leaving former Wallaby Rory to go head-to-head with his fellow ex-Australia second-rower Will Skelton.

Juan Cruz Mallia scored the decisive try on the hour after La Rochelle had mounted a fierce challenge despite being a man down.

Flyhalf Romain Ntamack, whose father Emile won three European titles with Toulouse, kicked 17 points while La Rochelle scored through the boot of Ihaia West and found some late hope with New Zealander Tawera Kerr-Barlow's try.

It was Toulouse's first Champions Cup title since 2010, and completed a French double after Montpellier beat Leicester in the Challenge Cup final on Friday.

France scrumhalf Antoine Dupont, who led Toulouse to the title, was later also named European player of the year, becoming the first Frenchman to win the accolade.

Ntamack and West traded penalties as the game quickly turned into a forwards battle that did little to please the 10,000 fans at Twickenham, which was hosting a crowd for the first time this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Botia was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Maxime Medard but it turned red after referee Luke Pearce consulted with the video assistant.

La Rochelle still managed to move three points up thanks to another West penalty after Rynhardt Elstadt was sin-binned, which left both teams with 14 men until the interval.

In a game riddled with ill discipline, Ntamack levelled with another penalty, only for West to add another three points on the stroke of halftime.

Cheslin Kolbe was denied a try early in the second half by a last-gasp Geoffrey Doumayrou tackle before Ntamack's fourth penalty put Toulouse level on 12-12.

Toulouse finally pierced their opponents' defence when Mallia took a bee line for the first try after being set up by Selevasio Tolofua.

Ntamack added another penalty in a flawless kicking performance and gave his team a 10-point advantage with 10 minutes left, giving La Rochelle little hope of a comeback.

But scrumhalf Kerr-Barlow cleverly dived from a maul to reduce the gap to five points, only for West's conversion attempt to hit the post.