Toulon managed to claim a share of the spoils at Stade Yves du Manoir as they drew 22-22 with Montpellier in the Top 14 opener.
Toulon managed to claim a share of the spoils at Stade Yves du Manoir as they drew 22-22 with Montpellier in the opening game of the Top 14 on Friday.
Montpellier will wonder what might have been however as an intercept pass that led to a Toulon try and a late penalty miss ultimately cost them.
The hosts came out of the 2013/14 blocks in fine fettle when they opened their account with a try from Yoan Audrin, who was put over by former Bulls centre Wynand Olivier. That slick score on two minutes was converted superbly by promising scrum-half Jonathan PÃ©lissiÃ© as the home side went seven points to the good early on.
The hosts are dark horses for silverware this season and will soon be boosted by Rene Ranger and Robert Ebersohn's big arrivals.
Jonny Wilkinson and company were struggling to get into the game as they looked to avoid back-to-back defeats – counting their heartbreaking Top 14 final loss to Castres – and when their fly-half missed his first penalty attempt at goal, Montpellier could sense they needed to make every Toulon mistake pay.
Montpol did just that on 24 minutes due to former England prop Andrew Sheridan's troubles at the scrum, with PÃ©lissiÃ© knocking over another three from 35 out to make it 10-0.
Toulon's woes would worsen immediately after the restart as young flank Virgile Bruni took out Alexandre Bias in the air. He spent ten minutes in the bin.
However, the European champions would pull together and Wilkinson got them on the board on 27 minutes before prop Sheridan was penalised again. It was now 13-3.
Toulon thought they were about to close the gap to just three points when Delon Armitage raced over from Matt Giteau's pass. However, the television match official said Wilkinson's earlier pass to the Australian was forward in what was a contentious call before half-time.
Soon after the turnaround, Wilkinson cut that scoreline to 13-6 via a long-range shot at goal and when home scrum-half PÃ©lissiÃ© missed an attempt five minutes later, it looked like the momentum and luck had possibly swung towards the visitors. The impressive Francois Trinh-Duc hoped to stem that tide with a smart drop-goal on 52 minutes.
Wilkinson and Montpellier replacement Benoit Paillaugue then traded shots at goal on the hour mark before the Englishman sent over his fourth penalty with only sixteen minutes remaining of what was an intriguing game at Yves du Manoir. Seven points was now the difference, with a draw possibly being a fair result for this league opener.
And that was what happened as Paillaugue's great penalty on 67 minutes from distance was followed up by another three from Wilkinson before Trinh-Duc's chancy pass was gobbled up by Maxime Mermoz, who ran 60 metres to score a crucial try. Wilkinson's kick tied the game before Paillaugue's late miss led to Toulon seeing out the clock for a draw.
Pen: PÃ©lissiÃ© 2, Paillaugue 2
Pen: Wilkinson 5
Montpellier: 15 Anthony Floch, 14 Yoan Audrin, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Yohann Artru, 10 Francois Trinh Duc, 9 Jonathan Pelissie, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Alexandre Bias, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Bobins Tchale Watchou, 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Maximiliano Bustos, 2 Charles Geli, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Thibaut Privat, 19 Kelian Galletier, 20 Benoit Paillaugue, 21 Thomas Combezou, 22 Benoit Sicart, 23 Nicolas Mas.
Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Vincent Martin, 13 Maxime Mermoz, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 David Smith, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Virgile Bruni, 5 Jocelino Suta, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Benjamin Noirot, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Sebastien Bruno, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Konstantine Mikautadze, 20 Mathieu Bastareaud, 21 Pierrick Gunther, 22 Michael Claassens, 23 Martin Castrogiovanni.