Stade knock out champions Toulon

Date published: June 5 2015

Toulon's reign as French champions came to an end in emotional circumstances as they were went down 33-16 to Stade Français in Bordeaux.

As a result it's Stade who will be in Paris next week for the Top 14 final, running in three tries through Raphaël Lakafia, Antoine Burban and Julien Arias.

The tragic death of Jerry Collins had a huge impact on the atmosphere in the ground, with Toulon, where the former All Black spent one season, particuarly affected.

Collins was best man at Chris Masoe's wedding, and the Toulon number eight paid tribute to his close friend by bleaching his hair blonde in the style of Collins.

Early on it looked as if the emotion would carry Toulon as they burst out of the blocks, but gradually Stade's dominance in the scrum and control out wide proved too much.

It ended a run of seven straight semi-final victories for Toulon, while also marking a sad end to the careers of Ali Williams, Bakkies Botha and Carl Hayman.

While it was a sad way for those great warriors to bow out, there was no doubt that the better team won, with Gonzalo Quesada's team showing they are more than capable of winning the Top 14 on their return to the play-offs after six years away.

Toulon had made a flying start, with Drew Mitchell scoring the opening try after just five minutes, collecting a lovely chip over the top from Juan Martin Hernandez which bounced kindly into his arms.

The bounces weren't as kind for Stade, who could have levelled immediately only for a ball to cruelly squirt away from Waisea after he looked to be clean through.

Morné Steyn got Stade onto the board after a good scrum from the Parisians, but Leigh Halfpenny soon replied in kind for Toulon to make it 10-3.

After a second Steyn penalty Stade then took the lead for the first time with a try made by a magical moment from Sergio Parisse. The Italian skipper collected Rabah Slimani's miss-pass out wide before flicking the ball behind the back, taking out two defenders, and putting Lakafia over.

Steyn converted from the touchline, but Toulon then looked to be coming back into it finally in the closing stages of the half, and another Halfpenny penalty made it 13-13.

The momentum seemed to be with the champions, but Stade defended valiantly, and they got their noses in front on the stroke of half-time. When a ball went loose in midfield, Burban was first to react, scooping it up and beating the tackles of Xavier Chiocci and Mitchell to go under the posts. 

It was just reward for Burban, the game's outstanding player, who with this performance made a mockery of his omission France's World Cup squad.

Leading 20-13 at the break, Stade saw Toulon cut the deficit with another Halfpenny three-pointer, but the Parisians were then able to take control.

Using their dominant scrum, as well as Toulon's indiscipline, Steyn pushed the lead out to 26-16, before a reaction from Toulon with ten minutes remaining.

Yet still there was no way through, and it was Stade who had the final word, with Arias taking advantage of a knock-on from Mitchell on the line to rub salt in the wounds with the final play of the game.

The scorers:

For Stade Français:
Lakafia, Burban, Arias
Cons: Steyn 3
Pens: Steyn 4

For Toulon:
Con: Halfpenny
Pens: Halfpenny 3

Stade Français: 15 Djibril Camara, 14 Julien Arias, 13 Waisea, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Jérémy Sinzelle, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Raphaël Lakafia, 6 Antoine Burban, 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Rabah Smimani, 2 Rémi Bonfils, 1 Heinke van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Laurent Sempéré, 17 Zak Taulafo, 18 Pascal Papé, 19 Jono Ross, 20 Scott Lavalla, 21 Jérôme Fillol, 22 Meyer Bosman, 23 Davit Zirakashvili

Toulon: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Drew Mitchell, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Juan Martin Hernandez, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Carl Hayman (c), 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Xavier Chiocci
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Alexandre Ménini, 18 Jocelino Suta, 19 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 20 Maxime Mermoz, 21 Delon Armitage, 22 Michael Claassens, 23 Martin Castrogiovanni

Venue: Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
Referee: Mathieu Raynal
Assistant Referees: Cedric Marchat, Pascal Pechambert