AFP - David Skrela orchestrated an unprecedented fourth European Cup title for Toulouse after overseeing his club's 21-19 victory over Biarritz at the Stade de France here on Saturday.
The outside-half, often the target for much criticism in the French press, booted three penalties and two drop-goals, and masterminded Toulouse's mean midfield defence and probing flat-ball attacks.
Florian Fritz also scored a long-range penalty and a drop-goal for Toulouse while scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili kicked four penalties for Biarritz, for whom Karmichael Hunt scored a late try converted by Valentin Courrent.
Toulouse have been the most consistent team in European rugby in the 15 years since the continent's showpiece tournament was launched, previously winning three times (1996, 2003, 2005) and twice being losing finalists (2004, 2008).
And they made it show at a packed Stade de France, their forwards dominating the much-vaunted Biarritz scrum while their backs -- until seven minutes to play -- gave nothing away in defence.
Biarritz, who failed to even make it to the Top 14 play-offs so patchy has their domestic form been, looked leaden-footed for much of the match, the likes of outstanding France No 8 Imanol Harinordoquy largely anonymous.
And it was only in the closing quarter when they brought the likes of Hunt and American winger Takudzwa Ngwenya into action that they looked like scoring.
The game opened at an electric pace, Toulouse almost scoring after a Skrela pass found captain Thierry Dusautoir in space.
But that rhythm was not to remain for long as a painful slugfest took shape between the forwards and the mean-fisted defences.
Yachvili kicked two early penalties and after a Skrela miss, Fritz got Toulouse's account ticking in the 22nd minute with a 55-metre penalty after Harinordoquy went high on Vincent Clerc.
Yachvili kicked a third penalty after Fritz took out Iain Balshaw but Skrela responded with the same after the Biarritz scrum folded.
In a rare glimpse of a spark at the Stade de France, Fritz found a hole and off-loaded to Maxime Medard who was well tracked by Balshaw.
Hooker Benoit August then rushed his defence to make a crucial hit and force Yannick Jauzion to knock on.
Biarritz, however, infringed from the restart for Skrela to kick his second penalty and Fritz added a snap drop-goal just before half-time as Toulouse ramped up their territorial advantage.
Toulouse opened the second-half with glimpses of their traditional attacking verve but they failed to make several phases of fine possession count when Medard fumbled a long pass with a simple two-on-one ahead of him.
August then latched onto a loose line-out ball, kicked ahead and outpaced Patricio Albacete, leaving the Argentinian lock no choice but to haul the hooker down.
Albacete was shown a straight yellow card by English referee Wayne Barnes and to compound matters for Toulouse, Yachvili kicked his fourth penalty to draw the sides level again.
Skrela edged Toulouse ahead just two minutes later with a well-taken drop-goal, and added his second with 20 minutes to play.
When Clerc was brought down close to the Biarritz line and a hand was spotted in the ruck, Skrela was on hand to boot his third penalty.
The match was brought to life when Australian rugby league convert Hunt crossed under the posts after being laid off by Ngwenya.
Courrent kicked the conversion but Toulouse held on to be named European champions for a fourth time.