Planet Rugby

Toulon dismantle Saracens

15th October 2009 21:29

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Wilkinson Hougaard

Game of two halves: Jonny Wilkinson outplayed Derick Hougaard

Toulon are flying high in the Amlin Challenge Cup after an excellent running performance put paid to Saracens 31-23 at the Felix Mayol.

Saracens lost their unbeaten record for the season in the process and they looked very ordinary at times.

The deal was sealed within seconds of the second half restart when some magnificent quick hands from Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe and Tom May set Christian Loamanu away, and with May on hand to take an inside pass to canter home and make it 25-9.

The handling in general was a significant difference between the teams, with the French revelling in freedom which they rarely get in the Top 14.

After a tetchy opening with Toulon feeling their way into proceedings and Saracens determined at all costs to play the ball down in French territory, Toulon led 6-3 with two penalties from Jonny Wilkinson edging one from Hougaard.

Hougaard's pragmatism was a little overblown, not least his attempt of a drop goal from 50m. Sarries rarely displayed any fluency and were rucked off their ball far too easily.

Wilkinson, on the other hand, was in fine form, surely cementing his place in England's November squad. He ran and kicked with equal aplomb, feasting off a wealth of clean possession given to him by Toulon's ferocious pack. His decision-making was exceptional.

It was centre Gabriel Lovobalavu who scored the first try, with Loamanu coming off his wing to create the incision up the middle and Lovobalavu taking the offload to storm home.

Loamanu got the second, finishing off some more simple quick hands on the right, but Hougaard kept Sarries in touch at the break by landing two more penalties from long range.

May's early second-half try put Toulon almost out of reach, with Wilkinson extending the lead to 28-9 with his third penalty.

Saracens unloaded their bench early in an attempt to work their way back in and within ten minutes of the first substitutions it was Wikus van Heerden who claimed a crucial try from a driven maul, leaving the game delicately poised.

But Wilkinson's fourth penalty put his side back three scores ahead at 31-16.

Saracens nearly rallied to bounce right back with a length of the field move, but Chris Wyles was hauled down 5m short and Toulon produced some stout defending for a couple of minutes before Hugh Vyvyan knocked on and Wilkinson cleared.

Toulon went for the bonus point from a penalty and Rory Lamont was within an ace of getting it but just had the ball dashed from his grasp as he reached for the line.

Instead it was the English who finished the game on a high, with Richard Haughton picking off a pass and racing to score.

The scorers:

For Toulon:
Tries: Lovubalavu, Loamanu, May
Cons: Wilkinson 2
Pens: Wilkinson 4

For Saracens:
Tries: Van Heerden, Haughton
Cons: Hougaard, Jackson
Pens: Hougaard 3

The teams:

Toulon: 15 Luke Rooney, 14 Rory Lamont, 13 Gabrieli Lovobalavu, 12 Tom May, 11 Christian Loamanu, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Pierre Mignoni, 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 7 Fotunuupule Auelua, 6 Joe van Niekerk, 5 Kris Chesney, 4 Esteban Lozada, 3 Tonga Lea'aetoa, 2 Philip Fitzgerald, 1 Laurent Emmanuelli.
Replacements: 16 Jawad Djoudi, 17 Benjamin Bastères, 18 Davit Kubriashvili, 19 Olivier Missoup, 20 Sébastien Fauqué, 21 Mafileo Kefu, 22 Matt Henjak, 23 Dewald Meyer Senekal.

Saracens: 15 Michael Horak, 14 Richard Haughton, 13 Rodd Penney, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Justin Marshall, 8 Michael Owen, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Wikus van Heerden, 5 Tom Ryder, 4 Steve Borthwick (capt), 3 Richard Skuse, 2 Ethienne Reynecke, 1 Mathias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Hugh Vyvyan, 20 Ernst Joubert, 21 Neil De Kock, 22 Glen Jackson, 23 Alex Goode.

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