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Toulon crisis deepens after Edinburgh rout, Cipriani in red-card misery

Paris (AFP) – Despite the return of barn-storming France centre Mathieu Bastareaud, Toulon’s season continued to crumble as they were thrashed 40-14 in Edinburgh in the European Champions Cup on Saturday.

On Saturday, even with the imposing figure of Bastareaud back at centre after a five-week suspension, Edinburgh repeatedly sliced through the Toulon defence, finding inviting gaps and breaking tentative tackles.

Ben Toolis burst over for the first home try after 14 minutes. Although Romain Taofifenua powered across the line for Toulon in the 20th minute, tries by Henry Pyrgos and Stuart McInally and three penalties by Jaco van der Walt put Edinburgh in control by the 45th minute.

Daniel Ikpefan scored Toulon’s second try in the 72nd minute, but three minutes later Francois Trinh-Duc, attempting to attack from deep, threw a pass to Chris Dean, presenting the centre with Edinburgh’s bonus point try.

“Of course, the lack of confidence is there,” said Bastareaud. “We are not far from being eliminated.”

The Scottish team moved to the top of Pool 5 ahead of Newcastle and Montpellier, the two first-week winners, who meet on Sunday. 

Toulon are bottom of the pool after two losses. The triple European champions have managed only two wins in their opening seven Top 14 games and last week suffered a humiliating one-point loss to Newcastle, who became only the second team after Saracens to notch up a European win on Toulon soil.

Earlier, Danny Cipriani completed a bad week when he was sent off after 29 minutes as Gloucester lost 36-22 away to Munster.

With his team trailing, the Gloucester fly half, omitted again from the England squad earlier this week, led with his shoulder as he tackled the onrushing Rory Scannell and saw red.

Johan Ackermann, the Gloucester coach, made clear he thought the red card was harsh.

“It’s one of those decisions we have to live with,” Ackermann told the BBC. “We’ve lost the empathy and integrity in rugby.” 

Munster touched down five times, through Mike Haley, Rhys Marshall, Sam Arnold, Andrew Conway and Joey Carberry. Late tries by Gerbrandt Grobler, Jason Woodward and Ben Morgan gave the score a more respectable for the English club.

The victory lifted Munster to the top of Pool 2, two points ahead of Castres who beat Exeter, 29-25, despite playing 34 minutes a man short.

Exeter grabbed an early 14 point lead in France with tries by Santiago Cordero and Matt Kvesic.

Castres fought back with a try by centre Florian Vialelle, a drop goal and two penalties by Julien Dumora and another penalty by Dumora’s replacement Yohan Le Bourhis that put them five points ahead.

The home team seemed to have undone all their good work in a disastrous final three minutes of the half.

‘We have the heart’

First, Ma’ama Vaipulu smashed his shoulder into Luke Cowan-Dickie’s chin, even though the Exeter hooker did not even have the ball. The Tongan No. 8 saw red.

“The red card allowed us to tighten up. We were able to raise our level,” said Vialelle. “We have the heart to do well in the European Cup…The 23 players responded and gave given everything.”

Gareth Steenson charged down a kick by Le Bourhis and touched down to level the score. 

Castres regained the lead early in the second half when Steve Mafi burst through the Exeter defence to score.

Exeter played the last nine minutes with 14 after Henry Slade received a yellow card.

In a game of wild momentum swings in Pool 1, Wasps and Bath drew 35-35 in Coventry. 

Both teams scored five converted tries but this time Freddie Burns, who missed a potential winning penalty and then dropped a certain winning try last week, had limped off, after kicking 10 points.

Bath had the chance to win it but Alex Davies missed a penalty from near the left touchline in the final minute.

The draw left them in the bottom two places in the pool.

Racing 92 comfortably beat error-prone Ulster to move to the top of Pool 4, scoring five tries in Paris to move four points clear in Pool 4.

Saracens scored four tries as they beat Lyon 29-10 to cement their grip on first place in Pool 3.

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