Duane makes solid Ulster debut, Dupont guides Toulouse to victory

Duane Vermeulen made a successful start to life with Ulster, while France’s Antoine Dupont celebrated his Player of the Year award by helping Toulouse beat a Covid-hit Cardiff side.

Less than 24 hours after he was presented with the World Rugby award, Dupont also set up three tries as the holders started the defence of their record fifth European crown.

The home side fielded a third-string side because 32 players had to isolate after the team returned from South Africa earlier this month.

“We knew they lacked players but we also knew they had a lot of very good players, we prepared seriously,” Dupont told Channel 4. “The result is good, but they were good also.”

Another Welsh region, the Scarlets, decided to forfeit their weekend fixture against the Bristol Bears, after also being caught by Britain’s changing quarantine rules.

At the Arms Park, the hosts, including academy members and semi-professional players, trailed 6-0 after a quarter of an hour following two Romain Ntamack penalties.

The vocal home crowd were fired up and had reason to cheer on the 20-minute mark as Wales wing Josh Adams went over under the sticks and Cardiff led 7-6.

The tie turned on its head before the break with two clinical Dupont interventions as the halfback’s breaks set up Anthony Jelonch and Pita Ahki.

Toulouse were held at 20-7 by the home team’s committed defence before Dupont’s best contribution.

He broke off the back of a lineout from 30m out and beat four would-be tacklers to dive over.

The 25-year-old capped his display with a sublime low cross-kick to gift winger Arthur Bonneval a try that secured the bonus point. Dupont was then replaced with 13 minutes to play.

Cardiff finished with 14-men after 20-year-old fullback Jacob Beetham was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle on his senior debut before former Samoa lock Joe Tekori crossed for Toulouse’s fifth try with four minutes left.

Elsewhere, England flyhalf George Ford kicked a late penalty as the Leicester Tigers edged Bordeaux-Begles 16-13 to keep the English Premiership leaders unbeaten in all competitions this season.

Ireland scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park scored twice as four-time champions Leinster easily overcame Bath 45-20.

Later, South Africa No 8 Duane Verumeulen made his Ulster debut at Clermont, helping the Irish side claim a 29-23 victory after leading 19-10 at half-time at the Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin.

2020 winners the Exeter Chiefs hosted Challenge Cup holders Montpellier and the English side powered to a 42-6 win.

On Sunday, last season’s losing finalists La Rochelle welcome the Glasgow Warriors and Munster, who have also been hit by Covid-19 isolation, head to fellow two-time champions Wasps.

On Friday, Scotland’s Finn Russell starred as Racing 29, runners-up on three occasions, hammered Northampton Saints 45-14.


Photo: Julien Poupart/Sportsfile via Getty Images

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Dylan Jack