Wilkinson boots Toulon into Top 14 final

Former England flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson kicked five match winning penalties to inspire Toulon to a 15-12 victory over Clermont and earn a place in the Top14 Rugby final against defending champions Toulouse.


The final will be held at Stade de France on Saturday.


Toulon’s victory – which sees them in the final for the first time since 1992 – was celebrated in exuberant fashion by colourful owner Mourad Boudjellal, who ran onto the pitch to hail the club’s supporters despite his 130-day touchline ban not coming to an end till Monday.


A tight match – which saw hopes of an open passing game hindered by pouring rain – was in doubt in until the final minute.


However, France star Morgan Parra – who had kicked all of Clermont’s points – saw his long-range penalty drop agonisingly short of the posts to make it two successive seasons the 2010 champions have bowed out at this stage.


For Wilkinson – who had been off colour with his kicking in recent matches – it is a chance to add yet another memorable moment to his 2003 World Cup final heroics, when his drop goal in the last minute of extra-time delivered the trophy to England for the first and so far only time.


“I am astonished to be going back to the Stade de France for the final, it is somewhere I haven’t been for a while!” joked the 33-year-old, who retired from international rugby after last year’s World Cup.


“It’s going to be an extraordinary experience.


“I can’t wait for it.


“In terms of why my kicking was much better today than in recent weeks, it is more down to the wind at our Mayol Stadium. I found I couldn’t cope with it but we are lucky at the club to have another really good kicker in Matt Giteau.


“Still I have deployed my usual formula that when something isn’t clicking it is a case of work, work and more work on the problem,” added Wilkinson, who won the English Premiership title with Newcastle Falcons in 1998


Boudjellal, who has funded the club through his comic book empire, was ecstatic at the victory, especially as it gives the club a second bite at a trophy this season having fallen short against Biarritz in the European Challenge final last month.


“For six years I have given everything to the club so I hope the French rugby authorities will understand why I was on the pitch at the final whistle,” said Boudjellal, who turns 52 on Tuesday.


“I can not imagine how it must feel to the players but for me its like a film, as we have been through so much together…highs and lows.


“This is not only my greatest day since I have been here but it is also the club’s greatest since 1992.


“It is great for the club but it is also great for the city and this is a huge present for the people of Toulon.”


Toulouse had booked their place in next Saturday’s climax to the season with a 24-15 victory over Castres on Saturday. The French champions’ legendary manager Guy Noves said he did not consider his side as favourites.


“I am not surprised by this result. We also could have lost yesterday (Saturday), I knew that the two semi-finals would be tight,” the 58-year-old told AFP after Toulon’s victory.


“We will be preparing much differently for the final against Toulon than we would have done for Clermont.


“We will have to adapt our strategy. We are expecting a complicated match. For me there is no favourite,” added Noves, who since taking over as head coach in 1988 has delivered nine French titles and four European Cups.

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