Former Wallabies rivals heaps praise on teammate Nonu

Ma'a Nonu set up a late win for Toulon. Photo / Getty
Ma'a Nonu set up a late win for Toulon. Photo / Getty

Australian Drew Mitchell paid tribute to long-time adversary Ma'a Nonu after scoring the crucial match-winning try as Toulon defeated Wasps in the European Champions Cup on Sunday.

The final buzzer had already sounded with Toulon trailing 11-8 to their English visitors when Australia wing Mitchell hit a perfect line to take New Zealand centre Nonu's pass and break through a tiring Wasps defence to notch the vital try that gave the reigning champions a 15-11 victory.

Defeat would have put Toulon on the brink of elimination but the win means they can ensure a place in the knock-out stages by beating Bath next week.

It will please Toulon's controversial owner Mourad Boudjellal who told reporters last week that Nonu, who joined the Top 14 club after winning his second Rugby World Cup title, was not yet a "lost bet" but had produced some "disappointing" performances for the club.

Wasps looked set to hold out against some late pressure until former Reds, Force and Waratahs star Mitchell, who was playing at fullback, struck.

"We knew that if we were in the right end of the field, we had a chance," said Mitchell, 31.

"We made it difficult on ourselves, I think the boys just set up a really good platform and were making metres and drawing the Wasps defence in tighter.

"And then Ma'a just took it to the line, I thought he was going to go over the top to Bryan (Habana) so I just ran a short line off him and he played me in."

Mitchell will get the plaudits but the Aussie insisted it was a team effort, with the Wallaby back teaming up with former All Black Nonu after a decade of battling each other for southern hemisphere superiority.

"Out of the last two minutes of hard work, my part was probably the easiest but that's the one you see.

"There was a lot of hard work from the forwards, but also our playmakers Fred (Frederic Michalak) and Ma'a made some good decisions."

More than the try, Mitchell said it was the result that counted the most as Toulon seek a fourth successive European title.

"You always like to score tries - for us the European championship means a lot, and this means also we still have an opportunity next week to continue in this competition.

"It was an important try but we have to quickly forget about tonight and recover well because we have another big challenge next week."

Toulon lead Wasps, who host Leinster next week, by a single point but face a tough trip to Bath, who are already eliminated.

Only the Pool 5 winners are guaranteed a place in the last eight while the second placed team will have to wait and see if they are one of the three top runners-up across the five groups.

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