Toulon edge past Oyonnax

Date published: October 4 2014

Toulon were give an almighty scare but eventually battled to a 21-18 win over Oyonnax to go first in the Top 14.

Toulon were give an almighty scare but eventually battled to a 21-18 win over Oyonnax to go first in the Top 14.

Despite a misfiring scrum, tries from Juan Smith and Drew Mitchell proved the difference in a scrappy affair at Charles Mathon.

The game started slowly with both teams throwing everything into the tackles, but struggling to string phases together.

The early stages were marked in particular by Oyonnax’s dominance in the scrum, earning three penalties which led to a sin-binning for Xavier Chiocci, who had just returned from his first camp with the French squad.

Unfortunately for Oyonnax, Benjamin Urdapilleta was struggling from the kicking tee, missing two early shots at goal as the teams were tied at 6-6 after half an hour.

James O’Connor was on kicking duty for Toulon and made his first two attempts to keep the visitors level despite them being under the cosh.

But after failing to turn their set-piece superiority into points, Oyonnax were made to pay just before half-time. It came from a good Toulon scrum, and after a mix-up in midfield, David Smith broke through only to be hauled down just short of the line.

The ball was recycled quickly and Matt Giteau, who had narrowly escaped a yellow card two minutes earlier for diving on Florian Denos while he was on the ground, produced a perfect cross-kick for Juan Smith who touched down on the left.

O’Connor was off-target with the tricky conversion but the champions led 11-6 just before the break.

There was still time however, for Oyonnax to earn another penalty from their scrum, with Antoine Guillamon looking good in his first start of the season, and Urdapilleta made no mistake to make it 11-9 at half-time.

The second half continued in similar manner to the first, with neither team really able to impose themselves but Oyonnax were able to move back in front after a fourth penalty from Urdapilleta.

And the Argentinian fly-half extended the lead on the hour-mark with a cool drop goal from 35 metres out to make it 15-11.

The game seemed to be slipping away from Toulon, but they were handed a lifeline two minutes later when Maurie Fa’asavalu took out Giteau without using his arms, earning himself ten minutes in the bin and giving O’Connor an easy shot at goal to cut the deficit to one.

Despite being a man down, Oyonnax came back into Toulon territory, and after a penalty conceded by Romain Taofifenua, Urdapilleta made it 18-14.

The lead soon changed hands again though after some lovely work from Giteau.

Mathieu Bastareaud made the ground initially in midfield, and when the ball switched directions, the Australian fly-half delayed his pass beautifully to send Mitchell into the gap and over for the try. O’Connor missed the conversion though and Toulon’s lead was just three points.

Still Oyonnax kept attacking, and they threatened again after some good work down the left, but in the end Toulon were able to keep them out, thanks in large part to the turnover skills of Bastareaud who earned a vital penalty.

And while Oyonnax continued to press, they were not able to find a way through, and in the end paid the price for Fa’asavalu’s yellow card.

The scorers:

For Oyonnax:
Penalties: Urdapilleta 5
Drop Goal: Urdapilleta
Yellow Card: Fa’asavalu

For Toulon:
Tries: J Smith, Mitchell
Conversion: O’Connor
Penalties: O’Connor 3
Yellow Card: Chiocci

Oyonnax: 15 Florian Denos, 14 Dug Codjo, 13 Pierre Aguillon, 12 Roimata Hansell Pune, 11 Jean Francois Coux, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Agustin Figuerola, 8 Viliami Maafu, 7 Olivier Missoup, 6 Maurie Faasavalu, 5 Miroslav Nemecek, 4 Leon Power, 3 Antoine Guillamon, 2 Paula Ngauamo, 1 Soane Tonga’uiha.
Replacements: 16 Jody Jenneker, 17 Marc Clerc, 18 Geoffrey Fabbri, 19 Christophe Andre, 20 Yohan Domenech, 21 Regis Lespinas, 22 Guillaume Bousses, 23 Antoine Tichit.

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 James O’Connor, 13 Rudi Wulf, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 David Smith, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Steffon Armitage, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Jocelino Suta, 4 Konstantine Mikautadze, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Xavier Chiocci.
Replacements: 16 Jean Charles Orioli, 17 Alexandre Menini, 18 Chris Masoe, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Mathieu Bastareaud, 21 Drew Mitchell, 22 Eric Escande, 23 Carl Hayman.

Referee: Alexandre Ruiz
Assistant Referees: Christophe Mallet, Laurent Breil