Rugby: Wilkinson kicks Toulon into final

Jonny Wilkinson kicked all of Toulon's 24 points. Photo / Getty Images
Jonny Wilkinson kicked all of Toulon's 24 points. Photo / Getty Images

Jonny Wilkinson marked what could be his final appearance at Twickenham by kicking all of Toulon's points as they beat Saracens 24-12 today to set up an all-French European Cup final against Clermont.

England great Wilkinson, in his first appearance at Twickenham in nearly two years, landed all seven of his penalty attempts as well as a typically brilliant late drop-goal.

His points made sure Toulon's forward dominance was rewarded in front of a crowd including British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland, who names his squad for Australia on Wednesday.

Gatland has indicated he won't select French-based players but Wilkinson's performance, which included some neat touches in open play, may force a re-think by the New Zealander.

Victory kept Toulon, last season's losing European Challenge Cup finalists, on course for a domestic Top 14 and European Cup double this term.

They will face Clermont, 16-10 winners over Irish province Munster on Saturday, at Dublin's Lansdowne Road on May 18 in a first European Cup final for both French sides.

Toulon, coached by former France boss Bernard Laporte, turned round with a 12-9 half-time lead after Wilkinson kicked four penalties with Saracens' Owen Farrell landing three from four attempts.

This match was billed as a clash between the 33-year-old Wilkinson, England's record points scorer and the fly-half pivot of the 2003 World Cup-winning team, and the 21-year-old Farrell, the current Red Rose stand-off.

The two outside-halves exchanged penalties early on before Toulon made Saracens stand up at a scrum and Wilkinson duly obliged from 39 metres out on the right touchline.

In the 16th minute Toulon came close to a try when Wilkinson found Australia's Matt Giteau.

The Wallaby delivered a well-timed pass to Alexis Palisson who kicked ahead.

Unfortunately for Toulon, the ball bounced 'dead' just before former England full-back Delon Armitage could touch down.

But a late tackle by Farrell on Palisson saw Toulon awarded another penalty and Wilkinson duly obliged.

Another penalty exchange between Farrell and Wilkinson left Toulon 12-6 up.

Saracens came close to a try when, after a half-break by full-back Alex Goode, the ball was worked right to Ernst Joubert only for the No 8 to squander an overlap by cutting inside.

Sarries did reduce Toulon's lead when Scotland's Kelly Brown and Farrell forced a turnover against France centre Mathieu Bastareaud, with Farrell landing the ensuing 46 metre penalty before he was off-target from halfway with the last kick of the half.

Toulon's pack forced a scrum penalty in the 46th minute and Wilkinson kicked his club into a 15-9 lead.

However, Toulon were reduced to 14 men in the 48th minute when Danie Rossouw was sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Mako Vunipola and Farrell landed the resulting penalty.

After a surge by England prop Mako Vunipola, Saracens thought they had a try when Brown went in at the right corner but Farrell's preceding pass was ruled forward by Irish referee Alain Rolland.

Minutes later Wilkinson, from just inside his own half, produced a superb penalty kick to take Toulon six points in front.

Toulon then saw wing Rudi Wulf fail to find Bastareaud when a try loomed before Wilkinson's brilliant drop-goal, under pressure, secured victory.

And there was still time left for him to land a penalty that put the result beyond doubt.

- AFP

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