Robert Baloucoune bags special treble as Ulster edge out Toulouse

Robert Baloucoune became the first Ulster player to score a hat-trick of tries in the European Champions Cup since Darren Cave crossed the whitewash three times against Leicester Tigers in January 2015.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Monday, 11th April 2022, 7:00 am

Baloucoune’s three touch downs helped Ulster establish a six-point lead over defending European Champions Toulouse before the side’s meet in the second leg of their last-16 clash at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday night.

It was Baloucoune’s first hat-trick in an Ulster senior shirt and the first since playing age grade rugby.

“Maybe I got a hat-trick once before but I don’t get too many of them,” said Baloucoune.

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Robert Baloucoune scored Ulster’s first hat-trick of tries in the European Champions Cup since 2015. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“It would have been ages ago, I think I scored four against Connacht at U19’s and that was the last time I scored a hat-trick.

“I really can’t take credit for all the tries it was good work from the whole team and that is something that we had worked on all week trying to move the ball to the width and it was nice to get a few run ins.

“I worked with JP (Jared Payne) on my defensive reads, and we talked about putting them under pressure and that’s what I did for the intercept, I tried to get into that space and it just fell into my hands.”

Ulster’s task at the home of the defending champions was made easier after Toulouse winger Juan Cruz Mallia was red carded on 11 minutes.

“There was space for me, and I had a few runs, but to be fair to Toulouse they played well and still put the pressure on us and it was still a really tough game,” said Baloucoune.

“That showed at the end where there were a lot of boys cramping and as the game ended there were a lot of boys falling down and that showed the intensity of the game.

“It was definitely a good day out and probably one of the toughest days out as well.

“I was feeling it at the end, but it is always nice to score some tries and especially against a great team like Toulouse.”

Balocounce was happy how Ulster negated the Toulouse backline.

“We talked about (Antoine) Dupont and (Romain) Ntamack and their world class players but we always said we had the same ability,” he said.

“We knew what we could do on our side of the game and that showed in the match.

“They had their stints and so did we.”

Despite the victory in Toulouse Ulster know it is only half-time in the tie and they will have to produce another epic performance on home soil if they want to reach the quarter-finals.

“We went into this game knowing it was only half the battle,” said Baloucoune.

“So our minds are fully focused on getting that win at Kingspan and we know it is not over.

“It was good to get that win away, and it puts us in a better position but it is half the battle and we’ll probably have to step our game up more on Saturday.”