Sarries edge past Toulon
MATCH REPORT: Defending Champions Saracens secured a 31-23 win which ended RC Toulon's proud European Rugby Champions Cup unbeaten home record at the Stade Félix Mayol.
The English champions had looked to be romping to victory when tries from Sean Maitland, Richard Wigglesworth and Chris Wyles - plus ten points from Owen Farrell on his return from injury - gave Mark McCall's men a 25-6 half-time lead.
But three-time winners Toulon roared back after the break with tries from Levan Chilachava and Bryan Habana, plus the reliable boot of Leigh Halfpenny.
However, Saracens kept their nerve and a late Farrell penalty put the seal on a historic victory and deny Toulon a losing bonus point.
Saracens could hardly have wished for a better start as they totally dominated the opening 40 minutes.
Farrell and Halfpenny exchanged penalties before the English side claimed the opening try through Maitland. Strong forward carries laid the groundwork and the Scotland international finished brilliantly in the corner.
Farrell missed the conversion but he was soon lining up another shot at goal following another Saracens' try. Richard Wigglesworth was the scorer, going under the posts after hooker Jamie George charged through a gaping hole in the Toulon defence.
Farrell added the conversion and then kicked a penalty after a strong carry from George Kruis once again had Toulon in retreat.
They did at least trim the gap through Halfpenny's second penalty after Maro Itoje was penalised for a high tackle. But Saracens rammed home their ascendency with a third try before the break.
Mako Vunipola's cute offload allowed Farrell and Marcelo Bosch to make yards, with Wyles finishing the flowing attack on the left and Farrell converting.
Halfpenny got the first points of the second-half on the board but Farrell soon replied when Nonu saw red for a tip tackle on Brad Barritt.
But the numbers were soon evened up as Itoje infringed following an extended spell of Toulon pressure and the game suddenly swung in hosts favour.
Chilachava burrowed over from the next passage of play and Habana raced his way over at the end of a flowing attack, with Halfpenny adding both conversions to get his team within five points.
Saracens then lost Schalk Burger to the bin with eight minutes to go for slowing down ruck ball, but Farrell's penalty got them over the line.
For RC Toulon:
Tries: Chilachava, Habana
Cons: Halfpenny 2
Pens: Halfpenny 3
Tries: Maitland, Wigglesworth, Wyles
Cons: Farrell 2
Pens: Farrell 4
Yellow Cards: Maro Itoje (Saracens), Schalk Burger (Saracens), Ma'a Nonu (RC Toulon)
RC Toulon: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Matt Carraro, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Francois Trinh Duc, 9 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Charles Ollivon, 5 Mamuka Gorgodze, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Florian Fresia
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Manasa Saulo, 19 Liam Gill, 20 Mathieu Bastareaud, 21 Pierre Bernard, 22 Eric Escande, 23 Romain Taofifenua
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Michael Rhodes, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Mike Ellery.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Mark Patton (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)