Toulon on course for double
Sat, 25 May 2013 06:24
Now there's a Final to play
Toulon ended Toulouse's reign as French Top 14 champions with a 24-9 semifinal success on Friday to remain on course to complete a double.
The newly-crowned European champions took their time to hit their stride following last weekend's historic 16-15 win over Clermont in Dublin, but once they did, they streaked clear in the second half.
"The first half was really difficult but we came out ion the second half with ambition," said Toulon flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson, who kicked 14 points.
"You never know against Toulouse, you have to keep alert right to the end. Now there's a Final to play. We don't have much time to prepare but we're going to enjoy it and keep positive."
Toulouse, who beat Toulon in last year's Top 14 Final, were well in touch at the break, trailing only 8-6, and just three minutes into the second period they took the lead when former new Zealand international Luke McAlister landed his third penalty of the evening.
However, that was the last impression the four-time European champions would make on the scoreboard as Toulon notched 16 unanswered points to romp into the Final against either favourites Clermont or Castres, who play on Saturday.
Toulon were off to a flying start after just two minutes as scrumhalf Frederic Michalak lofted an up-and-under from inside the Toulouse 22 and South African Danie Rossouw arrived at pace down the line to catch the ball and dive over in the corner.
Wilkinson missed the conversion from the touchline but he would soon make it onto the scoreboard when his penalty was sandwiched by a pair of McAlister efforts.
Toulouse, the 19-times French champions playing in their 20th successive semifinal, thought they had a try of their own midway through the first period when Yannick Jauzion finished off a flowing move by diving over in the right corner.
But the Final lofted pass inside from flank Jean Bouilhou went forward and the score was ruled out after being referred to the video referee.
Toulouse kept pushing after the break but their lead lasted only 11 minutes before Toulon's greater class shone.
"I expected Toulon to be at this level but I didn't expect us to be dominated like we were, especially in the scrum, because the match turned on a scrum when we were winning 9-8" complained Toulouse coach Guy Noves.
Wilkinson slotted his second penalty of the evening after Toulouse were penalised at the scrum before sending his trademark drop-goal sailing between the posts on 64 minutes to ensure Toulouse couldn't retake the lead with a successful kick at goal.
The former England flyhalf struck another penalty from fully 50 metres as the new European champions moved more than a converted try in front.
Toulouse needed something special to get back into the game but it was Toulon's English fullback Delon Armitage who produced it.
Jeered throughout by fans who hadn't appreciated his goading of Clermont fly-half Brock James a week ago before he went over to score a try for Toulon, Armitage silenced the boo-boys with a score all of his own making.
Receiving the ball wide left he shimmied and jinked his way inside Clement Poitrenaud and raced clear of a covering defender before going over under the posts.
This time there was no show-boating from the former England man and Wilkinson knocked over the easy conversion to hammer home the final nail in Toulouse's coffin.
Having claimed a first European title a week ago, and in so doing denied Clermont the same honour, Toulon will be hoping for a fourth French title and first since 1992 in the June 1 Final at Paris's Stade de France.
Tries: Rossouw, Armitage
Pens: Wilkinson 3
Pens: McAlister 3
Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Rudi Wulf, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Jonny Wilkinson (captain), 9 Frederic Michalak, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Danie Rossouw, 5 Nick Kennedy, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Davit Kubriashvili, 2 Sebastien Bruno, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Chilachava, 18 Xavier Chiocci, 19 Rocky Elsom, 20 Steffon Armitage, 21 Maxime Mermoz, 22 Sébastien Tillous-Borde , 23 Jocelino Suta.
Toulouse: 15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Yannick Jauzion, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Maxime Medard, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Jean Marc Doussain, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Thierry Dusautoir, 6 Jean Bouilhou, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Census Johnston, 2 William Servat, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Vasil Kakovin, 18 Romain Millo Chlusky, 19 Yannick Nyanga, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Lionel Beauxis, 22 Yann David, 23 Jean Batiste Poux.
Referee: Pascal Gauzère
Assistant referees: Romain Poite, Sébastien Clouté
TMO: Jean-Luc Pellaprat
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