Planet Rugby

Toulon crowned champions of Europe

18th May 2013 18:50

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Toulon player Delon Armitage dives in for a try watched by Brock James of Clermont

Winning try: Delon Armitage

Toulon claimed their first Heineken Cup title after beating Clermont 16-15 in a thrilling all-French final in Dublin on Saturday.

Toulon become the third French team to win European club rugby's top prize, following in the footsteps of Toulouse and Brive.

RCT were outscored two tries to one but kept themselves in the game thanks to a disciplined, committed and clinical defensive effort.

In a dazzling array of talent, the opposing starting XVs featured 30 full internationals and the intensity on the pitch and atmosphere on offer to the fans at the Aviva Stadium was fully worthy of a Test match.

There was no shortage of attacking intentions in the first half but two very well-drilled defences ensured scoring chances were few and far between. As a consequence the interval was reached with the scores locked at 3-all.

The second half started with a bang however as two Clermont tries - from Napolioni Nalaga and Brock James - put les Jaunards in the driving seat, but Toulon fought back to take the lead for the first time in the 65th thanks to a try from Delon Armitage.

As they had done for much of the game, Clermont dominated territory and possession in the dying minutes only to see David Skrela charged down as he attempted a match-winning drop goal.

It took just three minutes for Morgan Parra to open the scoring from the kicking tee after Chris Masoe failed to release Gerhard Vosloo in the tackle.

Jonny Wilkinson levelled the scores on the 15-minute mark after Nathan Hines was trapped on the wrong side of ruck and didn't roll away.

Clermont fly-half James came within millimetres of scoring just before the break after chasing down his own kick but touched the ball down on the deadball line and was sent 30 metres back by the TMO.

Clermont would move in front within two minutes of the restart however as Nalaga - the tournament's top try scorer - finish in the corner. It all started with a turnover won by Sitiveni Sivivatu, the ball found it's way to Aurélien Rougerie, who emlinated three defenders to put Nalaga clear. The big Fijian still had plenty of work to do as he turned on the gas, sprinting 20 metres down the touchline to evade the cover defence to dive into the corner.

Parra missed the conversion and Wilkinson pulled three points back after Jamie Cudmore entered a maul from the side to leave the scores at 8-6.

The second Clermont try followed shortly afterward as Rougerie collected James' chip over the top, beat two defenders before offloading back to James, who pinned his ears back and raced home.

Parra's conversion put Clermont clear at 15-9, forcing Toulon to try find an extra gear.

RCT coach Bernard Laporte made a few early substitutions, including adding Frederic Michalak to the mix and the French scrum-half made an immediate impact.

Michalak's clever chip ahead forced James to hang on and Wilkinson could cut the deficit to six points from the ensuing penalty.

Juan Fernandez Lobbe was at the origin of Toulon's first and only try, winning a turnover before finding Armitage in space out wide. The English full-back had a clear path to the line and too much pace for the chasing James.

Wilkinson added the extras to put Toulon in front for the first time with 15 minutes to play.

It was all Clermont in the closing minutes, but Vern Cotter's men failed to keep their composure, coughing up a handful of knock-ons when the game was there for the taking.

Clermont were probably the better team on the day but must now turn their attention to winning the Top 14.

Man of the match: Clermont skipper Aurélien Rougerie was brilliant, creating both his team's tries but we'll go with his opposite number, Mathieu Bastareaud, who crossed the gain-line every time he had the ball and forced two crucial penalties by competing at the breakdown when Clermont were threatening to score.

Moment of the match: Both Clermont tries were outstanding but the turnover won by Juan Fernandez Lobbe to set up Armitage's score changed the course of the game.

Villain of the match: He may have scored the winning try but Delon Armitage made no friends amongst neutral fans with his unsportsmanlike wave to Brock James as he raced to the line. Poor form.

The scorers:

For Clermont:
Tries: Nalaga, James
Con: Parra
Pens: Parra

For Toulon:
Try: D. Armitage
Con: Wilkinson
Pens: Wilkinson 3

Clermont: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Aurélien Rougerie (c), 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Naipolioni Nalaga, 10 Brock James, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Gerhard Vosloo, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements:16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Clement Ric, 19 Julien Pierre, 20 Julien Bardy, 21 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 22 David Skrela, 23 Regan King.

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Rudi Wulf, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Jonny Wilkinson (c), 9 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Danie Rossouw, 5 Nick Kennedy, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Sebastien Bruno, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Davit Kubriashvili, 19 Joe van Niekerk, 20 Steffon Armitage, 21 Maxime Mermoz, 22 Frederic Michalak, 23 Jocelino Suta.

Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England); George Clancy (Ireland)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)

By Ross Hastie

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