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Wilkinson sets up all-French Final

Sun, 28 Apr 2013 15:50
Jonnywilkinsonsaracens Chrismasoesaracens Alexispalissonsaracens Alexgoodetoulon
Spirit and determination got us there
Quote-end

Jonny Wilkinson marked what could be his final appearance at Twickenham by kicking all of Toulon's points as they beat Saracens 24-12 on Sunday to set up an all-French European Cup Final against Clermont.

England great Wilkinson, in his first appearance at Twickenham in nearly two years, landed all seven of his penalty attempts as well as a typically brilliant late drop-goal reminiscent of the score that downed Australia in the 2003 World Cup Final.

"It was great to come out on top against a team like Saracens - it's a big thing for us," Wilkinson told Sky Sports.

"It didn't go fantastically well for us and we didn't do some of the things we wanted to do, but it was all about fighting hard until the last minute and hanging on. Spirit and determination got us there."

Wilkinson's points made sure Toulon's forward dominance was rewarded in front of a crowd including British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland, who names his squad for Australia on Tuesday.

Gatland has indicated he won't select French-based players but Wilkinson's performance, which included some neat touches in open play, may force a re-think by the New Zealander.

Saracens captain Steve Borthwick, a former England teammate of Wilkinson's, added: "We made too many errors and with Jonny Wilkinson kicking every penalty it is really difficult."

Victory kept Toulon, last season's losing European Challenge Cup finalists, on course for a domestic Top 14 and European Cup double this term.

They will face Clermont, 16-10 winners over Irish province Munster on Saturday, at Dublin's Lansdowne Road on May 18 in a first European Cup Final for both French sides.

Toulon, coached by former France boss Bernard Laporte, turned round with a 12-9 half-time lead after Wilkinson kicked four penalties to three from Saracens' Owen Farrell, who missed with his fourth attempt.

In a match where no tries were scored, Saracens fashioned a couple of chances but couldn't take them.

This semifinal was billed as a clash between the 33-year-old Wilkinson, England's record points scorer and the pivot of the 2003 World Cup-winning team, and the 21-year-old Farrell, the current Red Rose No.10.

The two flyhalves exchanged penalties early on before Toulon made Saracens stand up at a scrum and Wilkinson duly obliged from 39 metres out on the right touchline.

In the 16th minute, Toulon came close to a try when Wilkinson found Australia's Matt Giteau, who delivered a well-timed inside pass to Alexis Palisson.

The wing kicked ahead but, unfortunately for Toulon, the ball bounced 'dead' just before England fullback Delon Armitage could touch down.

But a late tackle by Farrell on Palisson saw Toulon awarded another penalty and Wilkinson duly obliged.

Another penalty exchange between Farrell and Wilkinson left Toulon 12-6 up.

Sarries did reduce Toulon's lead when Scotland's Kelly Brown and Farrell forced a turnover against France centre Mathieu Bastareaud, with Farrell landing the ensuing penalty before he was off-target from halfway with the last kick of the half.

Toulon's pack forced a scrum penalty in the 46th minute and Wilkinson kicked his club into a 15-9 lead.

However, Toulon were reduced to 14 men in the 48th minute when Danie Rossouw was sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Mako Vunipola and Farrell landed the resulting penalty.

After a surge by England prop Mako Vunipola, Saracens thought they had a try when Brown went in at the right corner but Farrell's preceding pass was ruled forward by Irish referee Alain Rolland.

Minutes later, Wilkinson, from just inside his own half, produced a superb penalty kick to take Toulon six points in front.

Toulon then saw wing Rudi Wulf fail to find Bastareaud when a try loomed before Wilkinson's brilliant drop-goal, under pressure, secured victory.

And there was still time left for him to land a penalty that put the result beyond doubt.

The scorers:

For Saracens:
Pens:
Farrell 4

For Toulon:
Pens:
Wilkinson 7
DG: Wilkinson

Yellow cards: Danie Rossouw (Toulon, 48)

Teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 George Kruis, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Chris Wyles.

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Rudi Wulf, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Danie Rossouw, 5 Nick Kennedy, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Sebastien Bruno, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements:
16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Davit Kubriashvili, 19 Joe van Niekerk, 20 Steffon Armitage, 21 Maxime Mermoz, 22 Frederic Michalak, 23 Jocelino Suta.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland), Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)

AFP

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