Antoine Dupont has successfully moved on from France’s World Cup letdown. He led Toulouse in a dominant display that humbled Harlequins and showcased the team’s potential to win a sixth Champions Cup title.
In the upcoming year, he plans to step away from playing XVs and will not participate in the Six Nations tournament. Instead, he will use this time to improve his skills in sevens rugby before attempting to win an Olympic gold medal next summer. However, he will make a comeback with Toulouse in the spring, leading them in their pursuit of success in the Champions Cup and Top 14. Based on his performance, it is clear that the team will be thrilled to have him back.
The Quins were among seven clubs from England who were able to win their first game in the competition, which was an exciting triumph against Racing 92. However, in this match against Toulouse, they were outmatched by their opponents who displayed a combination of strength and precision. It is possible that we will not see as much of Dupont in the near future, but we can anticipate seeing a lot of his teammate Emmanuel Meafou wearing a French jersey in the next few months. Meafou, a towering second-row player, was awarded man of the match, while fly-half Thomas Ramos – one of the six key members of France’s World Cup squad – scored 15 points for his team.
Dupont stated that after losing a competition (such as the World Cup), there is a desire to try again and win. He also mentioned that it took some time for the team to regroup and regain their competitiveness.
“I am anticipating a busy year ahead, and I am looking forward to it. To be successful in all of the upcoming competitions, I will need to put in a lot of hard work. I am extremely enthusiastic about this opportunity. The last time I played sevens was in the under-18 category, but it is still the same sport with many similarities. I am determined to give my best effort. The coach has been teaching me some new skills, and I am trying to learn by observing.”
During most of the first half, Harlequins put up a good fight, but once Toulouse took the lead, the home team had to play catch-up, which ultimately worked in their opponent’s favor. With players like Dupont, Ramos, and Meafou, Toulouse has a variety of skills to harm their rivals, and Harlequins fell victim to all of them.
The team also faced the challenge of Dino Lamb’s injury, which appeared severe and caused the match to pause for over 10 minutes. Overall, this match felt like Quins had pushed themselves too hard in previous games. They will be let down that they couldn’t score a fourth try and that they struggled in the final moments, but will acknowledge that they were outmatched.
The two main performers did not have a good beginning, as Dupont was penalized for not playing the ball quickly in the first minute. Soon after, Marcus Smith declined a simple penalty in front of the posts, but his attempt to kick to the corner missed its mark.
For 10 intense minutes, Toulouse and Harlequins exchanged tries. First, Pierre-Louis Barassi made a clever dummy and break to score for Toulouse. Then, André Esterhuizen bulldozed through the defense for Harlequins. The lead changed hands again as Dimitri Delibes scored for Toulouse.
Neither team could find their rhythm after Lamb was injured, and when they did, a knock-on would often follow. Toulouse eventually found their groove and scored a third try thanks to Peato Mauvaka, who was supported by Delibes. However, Harlequins’ Irne Herbst, who had replaced Lamb, scored from close range just before halftime, giving the team some momentum.
After halftime, Matthis Lebel effortlessly scored a bonus-point try that Harlequins were not pleased about. Although Herbst scored for the home team, Barassi’s second goal was a beautiful display of teamwork, starting with Dupont running over halfway on the counter. This goal demoralized Quins, and they ended up conceding two more goals to Rodrigue Neti and Ramos, highlighting the clear difference in skill between the two teams.