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Dupont stars as Toulouse end Ulster's winning run

MATCH REPORT: Antoine Dupont was in extraordinary form as he inspired Stade Toulousain to a 48-24 victory over Ulster in Round Three of the Champions Cup in Belfast.

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The victory secured Stade Toulousain passage to the knockout stage as they search for a record sixth title in EPCR’s elite competition, and all but ensured they will have home advantage in the Round of 16.

While the result ended Ulster’s three-game winning streak.

The loss means that Ulster sit fourth in Pool Two after two defeats in the three rounds so far.

Dupont, who had broken Ulster hearts before in 2022, played a major role in most of the TOP14 club’s seven tries – two of which he scored himself – as they secured a third bonus-point win in three Champions Cup games.

Stade Toulousain crossed three times in the first period, with wing Matthis Lebel getting the first after he collected a cross-field kick from Thomas Ramos, playing at flyhalf, who also converted.

Hooker Peato Mauvaka got the second, and he was also involved with the third; flank Anthony Jelonch made a line-breaking run from deep, laying it off to Mauavka who produced a no-look pass to send Dupont through.

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A penalty from scrumhalf John Cooney had ensured that Ulster would not go in scoreless at the break, but a late surge of pressure saw hooker Tom Stewart reach for the line.

Cooney converted, and with Ramos kicking a penalty and two conversions the home side went in 10-22 down.

However, within ten second-half minutes, the record five-time winners of EPCR’s elite competition extended their lead. It was Dupont again, who raced away after fullback Blair Kinghorn had split the Ulster defence.

Dupont was involved in Stade Toulousain’s fourth and fifth scores too. Combining first with Mauvaka in a silky one-two move as the hooker grabbed his second before creating the space for the fifth try with an extraordinary switch pass, No.8 Alexandre Roumat finished the job.

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Ramos added all three conversions, and by the 60th minute, Ulster found themselves 31 points down.

Ulster were not going to give up easily, and knowing a losing bonus point could be the difference maker in their quest to qualify for the Round of 16 they pushed until the end, picking up tries from replacement Will Addison and No.8 Nick Timoney, both converted by replacement scrumhalf Nathan Doak.

But it was Stade Toulousain who had the last say. Lock Emmanuel Meafou powered over with the clock in the red, Kinghorn converting to put the cherry on top of the icing on the cake for the Champions Cup hopefuls.

Ulster’s future in the competition will come down to their Round Four tie at Harlequins next week, while Stade Toulousain will face Bath as they look to become top seeds for this year’s knockout stage in a showdown battle.

The scorers:

For Ulster:
Tries: Stewart, Addison, Timoney
Con: Cooney, Doak 2
Pen: Cooney

For Toulouse:
Tries: Lebel, Mauvaka 2, Dupont 2, Roumat, Meafou
Cons: Ramos 4, Kinghorn
Pen:Ramos

Teams:

Ulster: 15 Mike Lowry, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Sean Reffell, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Iain Henderson (captain), 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Tom Stewart, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Alan O’Connor, 20 Matty Rea, 21 Nathan Doak, 22 Luke Marshall, 23 Will Addison

Toulouse: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Juan Cruz Mallia, 13 Dimitri Delibes, 12 Pita Ahki, 11 Matthis Lebel, 10 Thomas Ramos, 9 Antoine Dupont (captain), 8 Alexandre Roumat, 7 Anthony Jelonch, 6 François Cros, 5 Emmanuel Meafou, 4 Richie Arnold, 3 Dorian Aldegheri, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 David Ainu’u, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Joshua Brennan, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Paul Graou, 22 Santiago Chocobares, 23 Setareki Bituniyata

Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Sara Cox (ENG) & Simon Harding (England)
TMO: Ian Tempest (England)

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