It was a result no one was expecting - but perhaps we should have. Ulster man-handled the French giants Toulouse in Ravenhill last night, and all but ended their interest in the Champions Cup. It's a result that dramatically increases the positivity around Ulster, and leaves them in a two-way fight with Saracens for control of the pool.
The headlines have made the most of the victory - the term historic has been banded about - but this is hyperbole. Ulster are a better side than these headlines are giving them credit for, and Toulouse a far worse team. Yes, it's a great victory, and yes Ulster can now feel better about themselves after a horrible run of luck. But this is where Ulster should be. They should be disposing of Toulouse in this emphatic manner.
See Also: Brian O'Driscoll Slams Poor Imports As Reason For Irish Province's Decline
Toulouse are not the team they once were, and that's a sign of where French rugby is right now. Just last month, Saracens embarrassed Toulouse with a score of 32-7. Sarries were 32-0 up after 48 minutes, and there was no score in the final half-hour as the players knew it was over. There wasn't the same hoo-ha over Saracens' victory, as there was from Ulster. Even Connacht, back at the start of their rebuilding phase, managed to beat Toulouse at home. Yet, the team with six of France's best international players -who have been embarrassed twice in three outings in the Champions Cup - are third in the Top 14 with the most amount of wins in the Top 14.
What does that say about the Top 14? If you take out the legion of imports from Toulon and Clermont - how good are the French teams? How much impact do the French players have on their teams? Toulouse are one of the biggest contributors to the French national team - is it any wonder that they've been in steady decline in the last four years?
French rugby is in a dark place. The players aren't good enough, they don't have the skill and flair of old. The Top 14 clubs are relying on foreigners to win because they have to - and this is further exacerbating the problem.
Toulouse aren't the giants they once were. Neither are the French national side. It's time people starting realising this, and while Ulster are putting themselves into a good place - let's not get carried away with patting them on the backs.
See Also: Only One Toulon Player Is Still At The Club Since Leinster's 2009 Heineken Cup Victory
See Also: Twitter Was Shocked After Ulster's Historic Win Over Toulouse
Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE