Toulon qualify by dismantling Munster

Jonny Wilkinson’s Toulon hit the big time in Heineken Cup rugby when they dismantled the Munster machine and qualified for the quarter finals with a 32-16 victory in Pool 3.

Toulon kept Munster on the backfoot for all of the match and Munster’s score was flattered when David Wallace scored a consolation try in the closing stages.

The result means that the two-time champions Munster failed to reach the European Cup quarter-finals for the first time since the 1997/98 season.

English World Cup-winning fly-half Jonny Wilkinson contributed 22 of his team’s points as heavily-financed Toulon were assured of topping the hotly-contested Pool 3 and a place in the last eight.

Toulon took the match by the scruff of the neck from the outset as three early penalties by Wilkinson gave them a 9-3 cushion against a flat Munster outfit.

The hosts turned the screw when they scored the opening try as a cheeky chip over the defence by veteran scrum-half Pierre Mignoni was caught by Tongan-born Japanese international Christian Loamanu, beating Doug Howlett and Paul Warwick, and he touched down.

Wilkinson landed the conversion and although Ronan O’Gara scored a penalty to make it a 10-point deficit, the Irish self-destructed again.

Veteran Irish lock Donncha O’Callaghan was sin-binned in the 33rd minute for throwing an opponent to the ground off the ball and Toulon profited as Wilkinson landed the resulting penalty.

Worse was to follow as the inspired Mignoni cut the Irish defence to ribbons creating a huge overlap which, though nearly spoilt by a wild pass from Joe van Niekerk, was well recovered by Paul Sackey and the England winger burrowed over to score in the corner.

Wilkinson landed a sublime conversion from wide out on the right to make it 26-6, with the damage being only marginally reduced by another O’Gara penalty on the stroke of half-time.

However, Wilkinson added a penalty shortly after the restart to make it 29-9 and Munster’s nightmare afternoon got even worse shortly before the 50th minute mark when O’Gara was yellow carded for what even the linesman termed ‘handbags’ as the Irishman and Mignoni went at each other.

Wilkinson added another penalty with O’Gara still off the pitch to make it 32-9 and Irish hopes of sparking a revival were further dimmed when Howlett dived to touch down in the corner but his effort was ruled out for being in touch.

Munster veteran lock Paul O’Connell was gracious in defeat.

“It was both a case of Toulon outplaying us and also us beating ourselves with lack of discipline and missing our opportunities,” said the former British and Irish Lions captain.

“We have been round the block but Toulon were far superior, packed with great players and full of leaders. They did the simple things well and you can’t keep on giving penalties away when Jonny is around.”

Wilkinson said that he and his side had gone out totally motivated for the occasion.

“We went out there to give it our all,” he said.

“We kept fighting and fighting. It was a tense affair and an awesome occasion. We need to embrace this moment and draw on it later in the season.”.

Final Score Toulon 32 (26) Munster 16 (9)


Tries: Loamanu, Sackey
Penalties: Wilkinson 6
Conversions: Wilkinson 2

Tries: Wallace
Penalties: O’Gara 3
Conversions: O’Gara

Referee: Dave Pearson (England)


Toulon: R Wulf, P Sackey, G Lovobalavu, F Contepomi, C Loamanu, J Wilkinson, P Mignoni, L Emmanuelli, S Bruno, D Kubriashvili, C Samson, D Schofield, J Fernandez Lobbe, G Smith, J van Niekerk (capt).

Replacements: J Orioli, S Taumoepeau, M Merabet, J El Abd, F Auelua, R Lamont, L Magnaval, K Chesney


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