Toulouse set up Toulon showdown
Toulouse set up Toulon showdownSHARE
Two-time defending champions Toulouse powered past Racing Metro 33-19 on Friday to set-up a French Top 14 semi-final duel against Toulon in a repeat of last year's championship match.
The two sides met in the 2012 final at the Stade de France with Toulouse winning 18-12.
"Some people would have said that had we lost today, then this would have been our most catastrophic season," said Toulouse coach Guy Noves.
"Sadly for them (his critics), they will have to wait a little longer. I dedicate this victory to them."
Racing led 6-3 in the early stages after Jonathan Wisniewski had kicked two penalties to former All Black Luke McAlister's third-minute strike, but it was the champions, featuring in the opening round of the play-offs for the first time in their history, who grabbed the game's first try after 21 minutes.
Veteran centre Yannick Jauzion, playing his last home game after 11 years with the French giants, released Gael Fickou for the score.
McAlister missed the conversion but Toulouse's 8-6 lead soon became 11-6 when the New Zealander sent over a penalty after Racing had been penalised at the ruck.
Racing hit back to level the score when Fijian winger Sireli Bobo slipped two tackles before passing to compatriot Masi Matadigo who barrelled over for 11-11 with Wisniewski fluffing the conversion.
On the stroke of half-time, Toulouse nipped back in front at 14-11 when Francois Van der Merwe strayed offside and McAlister hit the target with the resulting penalty.
Another penalty success by McAlister just after the resumption pushed Toulouse further in front for 17-11 which soon became 24-11 when No.8 Louis Picamoles, who had been a pre-match injury doubt, was guided over the try line in a well-orchestrated forwards move.
Racing cut the deficit with their second try of the night scored by Henry Chavancy with Wisniewski adding the conversion for 24-16.
McAlister and Wisniewski exchanged penalties as Toulouse went into a 27-19 lead before 33-year-old Jauzion was replaced, the veteran French international centre leaving to a standing ovation from the 30,000 crowd.
Two more penalties from McAlister put Toulouse in complete control at 33-19 to set-up a mouth-watering semifinal clash against Toulon in Nantes on May 24.
On Saturday, Castres host Montpellier with the winners to meet Clermont in a May 25 semifinal.
The Top 14 final will be staged at the Stade de France on June 1.