Saracens fell short at a packed out Wembley on Friday night as a late Owen Farrell drop-goal missed the mark; handing Toulouse a 17-16 victory and the upper hand in Pool 3 of the competition.
The result is Sarries first loss of the season, in all competitions. The London side were outscored by two tries to win, but took the game right down to the wire.
Saracens led 13- 7 at the break; however, Toulouse were still in the hunt as the power of the French side’s pack showed through as hooker Christopher Tolofua powered over the line.
Farrell landed three penalties to make the score 16-7 early in the second half.
However, Jean-Marc Doussain kicked a penalty and then landed a winning conversion after French number 8, Louis Picamoles burrowed over the line for Toulouse’s second try.
Young fly-half, Farrell, had two opportunities to seal the game for Saracens and keep their all competitions undefeated run alive; but, both his penalty and drop-goal attempts fell short of the mark.
The England number 10 was visibly distraught after the game, along with the majority of the 61,428 Wembley crowd – a record crowd for a Heineken Cup pool game in Britain.
Although, Toulouse may have deserved the win, as the four time champions executed a strong and impressive performance under the difficult watch of a primarily English Wembley Stadium crowd.
The French side began the game as flamboyant as ever, looking to chance their arm at every possible opportunity. Although, in the game’s opening exchanges, it looked like this may be their downfall, as Toulouse looked disjointed and coughed up possession far too often.
Saracens looked quite happy to sit back and counter on the French sides mistakes as they took a lead into the half. Toulouse’s Luke McAllister could have made the score line look a lot different, however, if he had managed to convert his three penalties that all fell short.
As the teams came back onto the field for the second half, the game began to kick into life; particularly through the French additions from the bench. Louis Picamoles, Jano Vermaak and Gurtho Steenkamp all made massive impacts on the field.
McAllister added to his poor start with an even worse throw to Clement Poitrenaud, who fumbled the ball, eventually turning the ball over. After the London side regained the ball, centre Chris Wyles stepped past Gillian Galan to burst through the defence, eventually finding wing Chris Ashton in support before getting the ball back again and crashing over the line.
Things went from bad to worse for McAllister who fell short from long range and then missed a simple kick; but the Toulouse pack made amends, forcing Tolofua over for their first score. Doussain took up the kicking duties, added the extras and levelled the scores at 7-7.
Farrell added a further two penalties, whilst McAllister left the field with a hand injury.
A further three points were added after the break by the young fly half, to take Saracens to a 16-7 lead, leaving Toulouse with it all to do.
However, the final 20 minutes of the game were dominated by the French, as their forwards began to kick into gear. Toulouse began to make the right decisions in the right areas, as Yoann Huget found space out wide and kicked through to force Alex Goode over his own line for a five metre scrum.
Number 8 Picamoles picked up from the base and powered his way over the line for the defnining score of the game.
Doussain added the extras, putting the French ahead for the first time in the game with ten miniutes left to go.
Farrell had two opportunities to retake the lead, but couldn’t convert.
Saracens boss Mark McCall said that “it’s unbelievably disappointing to lose”, when he spoke to the BBC. “We had a couple of chances in injury time - it demonstrated the fight and composure of the team that we were able to do that.
"Owen Farrell was magnificent, unbelievable, the best player on the pitch. He did everything and doesn't shoulder any of the blame - he was brilliant.
"This result puts Toulouse in control of the group to a degree, but we still have a lot to play for."
Saracens will be looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season, when they take on Zebre on the 7th of December in the third round of the Heineken Cup.
Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Wyles, Taylor, Strettle; Farrell, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, Brits, Stevens, Borthwick, Hargreaves, B. Vunipola, Burger, Joubert.
Replacements: Brown for Taylor (48), Tomkins for Wigglesworth (48), Gill for M. Vunipola (62), George for Brits (62), Johnston for Stevens (62), Kruis for Hargreaves (70), de Kock for Joubert (48).
Sin Bin: Strettle (19).
Toulouse: Medard; Huget, Fritz, Poitrenaud, Gear; McAlister, Doussain; Ferreira, Tolofua, Johnston, Maestri, Tekori, Nyanga, Dustautoir, Galan.
Replacements: Fickou for Poitrenaud (72), Vermaak for McAlister (35), Steenkamp for Ferreira (41), Picamoles for Tolofua (48), Lamboley for Johnston (60), Millo-Chluski for Maestri (41), Montes for Nyanga (60), Ralepelle for Galan (48).