Wilkinson boots Toulon into Top 14 final

Heineken Cup champions Toulon booked a place in the Top14 Rugby final when they beat Toulouse 24-9 in their Top 14 Semi-final held in Nantes.

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.

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 scrum-half 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.

Jonny 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 semi-final,
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 flanker 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.

Wilkinson slotted his second penalty of the evening 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 fly-half struck another penalty from fully 50 yards 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.

Final Score Toulon 24 (8) Toulouse 9 (6)

Scorers

Toulon
Tries: Rossouw, Armitage
Pen: Wilkinson 3
Con: Wilkinson
Drop: Wilkinson

Toulouse
Pen: McAlister 3

Teams

Toulon

15 Delon Armitage, 14 Rudi Wulf, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Jonny Wilkinson (c), 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 Sébast

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