Planet Rugby

Toulon one step nearer silverware

30th April 2010 21:48

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Lovobalavu v Connacht

Rough stuff: Toulon's Gabriel Lovobalavu is stopped

Toulon have made it into the Amlin Challenge Cup Final with a 19-12 win over Connacht at the Galway Sportsground on Friday.

Connacht clung on tenaciously for much of the match, but when Mafi Kefu scored the game's first try nine minutes into first-half injury time the tide appeared to have turned irrevocably.

By the end of the match, the Irish had made nigh on 160 tackles, a phenomenal achievement. Yet it was all in vain as the French - or those playing for the French - began cutting loose in the second half and hammering home their superiority as well as steeling themselves in defence when Connacht finally got some front foot ball over the final 20 minutes. It was nip and tuck by the end, but Toulon just made it home.

Kefu scored the only try of the game, racing onto a pass from captain Matt Henjak to gallop in behind the posts in the 11th minute of first-half injury-time.

Connacht scored four penalties through Ian Keatley with hooker Sean Cronin twice going close to scoring a try.

Wilkinson shrugged off an early head injury to knock over three penalties and a drop-goal to establish a 12-6 lead.

Keatley had kicked Connacht ahead after two minutes but Wilkinson levelled on 10 minutes and made it 6-3 when the home side infringed at a ruck.

Flanker Thomas Sourice infringed at the restart to allow Keatley to smack over his second penalty, but an overthrown lineout from Cronin saw Connacht hand those three points back in the form of a Wilkinson drop-goal.

Toulon crucially built some pressure through their scrum as the first half came to a close.

Jamie Hagan was penalised for dropping a scrum and Wilkinson kicked the resulting penalty.

Another Sourice infringement allowed Keatley to make it 12-9, but Toulon powered back to score a try deep in injury-time, following an incredible nine scrum resets.

Referee Wayne Barnes, who missed a Toulon knock-on in the previous phase, watched on as the front rows folded time and again but eventually Henjak sent Kefu through a gap

and in behind the posts.

It was a try Toulon's attacking efforts had merited and while Wilkinson converted, Connacht hit back immediately after the break through Keatley's right boot.

With the game back in the melting pot at 19-12, Toulon were able to soak up most of the pressure, especially in the final quarter when Wilkinson was withdrawn through injury.

The benches were unloaded in a strength-sapping finale and Toulon survived a couple of scares, most notably when Cronin was bundled into touch on the left and replacement Ronan Loughney and number eight George Naoupu were held up just short of the line.

The scorers:

For Connacht:
Pens: Keatley 4

For Toulon:
Try: Kefu
Con: Wilkinson
Pens: Wilkinson 3
Drop goal: Wilkinson

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy, 14 Troy Nathan, 13 Niva Ta'auso, 12 Aidan Wynne, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Frank Murphy, 8 George Naoupu, 7 Johnny O'Connor, 6 John Muldoon (capt), 5 Michael McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Bernie Upton, 19 Mike McComish, 20 Conor O'Loughlin, 21 Miah Nikora, 22 Brian Tuohy, 23 Robbie Morris.

Toulon: 15 Luke Rooney, 14 Gabriel Lovobalavu, 13 Mafi Kefu, 12 Tom May, 11 Clement Marienval, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Matt Henjak, 8 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 7 Thomas Sourice, 6 Joe van Niekerk (c), 5 Esteban Lozada, 4 Jocelyn Suta, 3 Tonga Leaaetoa, 2 Phillip Fitzgerald, 1 Saimone Taumoepeau.
Replacements: 16 Sebastian Bruno, 17 Bwnjamin Basteres, 18 Tim Ryan, 19 Kris Chesney, 20 Olivier Missoup, 21 Jeremy Sinzelle, 22 Pierre Mignoni, 23 Sonny Bill Williams.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

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