Kolbe double ends Ulster's Kingspan run
EUROPEAN CUP REPORT: South Africa’s World Cup-winning superstar Cheslin Kolbe scored twice as Toulouse started their Champions Cup campaign with a 29-22 victory at Ulster on Friday.
Kolbe crossed either side of the break as he took his tally to 10 tries in as many games since the sport’s restart in September.
For Ulster, it was the first loss at their Kingspan Stadium since October 2018.
The hosts’ coach Dan McFarland made five changes from their Pro14 hammering of Edinburgh two weeks ago, as hooker Rob Herring and centre Jacob Stockdale returned from Ireland duty.
Australia lock Rory Arnold and New Zealand’s World Cup winner Charlie Faumuina returned to Ugo Mola’s starting lineup after last Saturday’s league victory at Bayonne.
McFarland’s men led 12-0 after 16 minutes – as Herring and flyhalf Ian Madigan crossed in greasy conditions.
Mola’s side responded immediately as Kolbe chipped and chased to finish from 50 metres in a sublime individual effort as he beat three defenders.
The joint-four time record winners led 14-12 at the break as Antoine Dupont broke from halfway and sold opposition fullback Michael Lowry a dummy to slide over.
The home team dominated after the interval as scrumhalf John Cooney kicked a penalty and Herring added a second either side of 2.13-metre Arnold’s first try of the season for a 22-21 lead with a quarter of an hour to play.
Kolbe’s second moment of brilliance came as the former Stormers wing received the ball on the left touchline.
He sidestepped Stockdale within centimetres of the whitewash and then found his way through for a try despite falling to all fours.
Thomas Ramos made up for the missed conversion with a 50-metre penalty goal to seal the win and a repeat result of last season’s quarterfinal.
On Saturday, four-time winners Leinster head to Montpellier as Toulon host Sale Sharks, who will be without head coach Steve Diamond after he resigned during the week.
On Sunday, champions Exeter Chiefs welcome Glasgow Warriors with 16 players remaining from October’s final win over Racing 92, who in turn host Connacht.
Tries: Herring 2, Madigan
Cons: Cooney 2
Tries: Kolbe 2, Dupont, Arnold
Yellow card: Maxime Médard (Toulouse, 69)
Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Matt Faddes, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Sean Reidy, 5 Sam Carter (captain), 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 David O’Connor, 20 Matt Rea, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Stewart Moore, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Toulouse: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Matthis Lebel, 13 Sofiane Guitoune, 12 Romain Ntamack, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Thomas Ramos, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Selevasio Tolofua, 7 Alban Placines, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Julien Marchand (captain), 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Guillaume Marchand, 17 Rodrigue Neti, 18 David Ainu’u, 19 Emmanuel Meafou, 20 Louis Madaule, 21 Yannick Youyoutte, 22 Pita Ahki, 23 Alexi Bales.
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Robert O’Sullivan (Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)