Planet Rugby

Toulon into third consecutive final

16th May 2014 21:47


Toulon centre Matt Giteau C scores v Racing Top 14 semifinal

Try for Toulon: Matt Giteau

Toulon booked a place in their third Top 14 Final in as many years with a hard-fought 16-6 victory over Racing Métro at Lille's Grand Stade on Friday.

Toulon will now face the winners of Saturday's other semi-final between Montpellier and Castres in a fortnight at the Stade de France.

In between, the reigning European champions must defend their crown in the Heineken Cup Final against Saracens in Cardiff.

Toulon led 7-6 at the interval thanks to the only try of the game from Matt Giteau. A couple of penalties and a late drop goal from Jonny Wilkinson did the rest as RCT remain on course for an elusive French-European double.

Toulon opened the scoring via Giteau's try. Racing failed to deal with high ball from Wilkinson and Bryan Habana was able to hack it ahead. Habana was shoulder-charged off course by his opposite number Juan Imhoff but it didn't matter because Giteau picked the ball up in gaggle of bodies and stretched an arm out to score.

Wilkinson slotted the conversion from the touchline to put Toulon up 7-0.

Jonathan Sexton got Racing on the board from the kicking tee after Toulon were penalised for going off their feet.

Racing were given a golden opportunity to take control of the game when Mathieu Bastareaud was shown a yellow card for a spear tackle on Jacques Cronje. Delon Armitage was lucky to not join him in the bin following a late tackle that left Juan Martin Hernandez dazed.

Sexton missed his penalty attempt though and despite their numeric disadvantage, is was Toulon who held the upper hand. Indeed, were it not for two missed penalties by Wilkinson, RCT would have scored six points during Bastareaud's absence.

Sexton's second penalty, on the half-hour mark, cut the deficit to a single point.

Wilkinson should have replied but his third consecutive miss from the tee, followed by a drop attempt from Sexton that bounced off the upright after the hooter, meant the 7-6 score line remained unchanged as the teams headed for the changing rooms.

Toulon were first to strike after the break. Bastareaud was brought down 5m short of the line but the big centre was able to force the penalty. Wilkinson's radar kicked back into gear and the Englishman split the uprights with an excellent penalty.

Wilko extended the lead to seven points with an easy penalty in front of the posts after a long series of charges from the Toulon forwards.

Toulon strangled the life out of Racing with some no-nonsense defence that snuffed out any threat of real ball-in-hand attacking play.

With time running out for Racing, Wilkinson landed a trademark drop goal to leave the scores at 16-6 with eight minutes left on the clock.

Silly errors, including a crooked line-out throws from 5m out by both sides, meant that that there would be no further scores.

Toulon easily weathered the predictable final storm by the Parisians and will now look forward in confident fashion to playing either Montpellier or Castres to claim their first title since 1992.

The scorers:

For Toulon:
Try: Giteau
Con: Wilkinson
Pens: Wilkinson 2
Drop: Wilkinson
Yellow card: Bastareaud

For Racing Métro:
Pens: Sexton 2

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Drew Mitchell, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Sebastien Tillous Borde, 8 Steffon Armitage, 7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Jocelino Suta, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Xavier Chiocci.
Replacements:16 Jean charles Orioli, 17 Alexandre Menini , 18 Ali Williams, 19 Virgile Bruni, 20 David Smith, 21 Maxime Mermoz , 22 Michael Claassens, 23 Martin Castrogiovanni.

Racing Métro: 15 Juan Martin Hernandez, 14 Adrien Plante, 13 Henry Chavancy, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Jacques Cronje, 7 Bernard le Roux. 6 Antoine Battut, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Juandre Kruger, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 Virgile Lacombe, 1 Julien Brugnaut.
Replacements: 16 Jeremie Maurouard, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Fabrice Metz, 19 Wenceslas Lauret, 20 Mike Phillips, 21 Fabrice Estebanez, 22 Benjamin Fall , 23 Brian Mujati.

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