Toulon down Racing for first win of the season
August 22, 2009
Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson takes on the Racing defence in the Stade Mayol sunshine
© Getty Images
Toulon recorded their first win of the Top 14 season with a convincing 27-13 victory over Racing Metro 92 at a sun-drenched Stade Mayol.
Tries from centre Jamie Robinson and captain Joe van Niekerk along with 14 points from the boot of fly-half Jonny Wilkinson saw the hosts maintain their unbeaten start to the season and keep pace with league leaders Toulouse and Clermont Auvergne.
Two penalties from Racing No.10 Jonathan Wisniewski had kept his side in the game in the first half but a second half try for centre Andrea Masi was nothing but a consolation.
Toulon coach Philippe Saint-Andre made seven changes to the side that shared the honours in their season opener with Stade Francais in the opening round while Racing's big money signing Sebastien Chabal once again had to make do with a place on the bench.
In a lively opening, a poor kick-off from Toulon handed the visitors an early advantage but Wisniewski snatched at his drop goal attempt and as a result had to watch it sail wide. Back came Toulon almost immediately to notch the opening try of the game. Some good work form strong-running winger Christian Loamanu and former Bristol flanker Joe El Abd created the opening before Wilkinson fired a long miss-pass to Robinson who had the pace to go over in the corner.
Wilkinson failed to slot the difficult conversion and when Toulon drifted offside after the re-start Wisniewski was able to reduce the arrears with his first penalty.
A brilliant chip and chase from Van Nierkek soon had Racing on the back foot again but the visitors weathered the storm and cleared their lines. Chabal then made a brief cameo as a blood replacement for lock Francois Carl Van der Merwe but was unable to prevent Wilkinson stretching Toulon's lead with a penalty. The Englishman looked to hammer home that advantage soon after but was off-target with his attempted drop goal.
Tempers boiled over on the quarter hour when Toulon scrum-half Matt Henjak took offence to a tackle and as a result was sent to the sin-bin. But the visitors were unable to capitalise with Wisniewski failing to find his range with the boot.
Racing rallied when a turnover deep inside their own half was exploited by centre Henry Chavancy. Toulon scrambled back in defence but a wild flip pass from Wilkinson to Rory Lamont put his fullback in further trouble. Racing No.8 Jacques Cronje pounced on the ball and surged for the line only for Wilkinson to recover and knock the ball loose as the South African looked to touch down.
Racing maintained the pressure at the resulting scrum but Masi was penalised for not releasing as he attempted to breach the defensive line. The Italian international was again the guilty party moments later when he blocked Wilkinson from chasing his own kick and the Toulon N0.10 made him pay by slotting the penalty.
Wisniewski cancelled that effort out a minute later and Wilkinson's drop goal struggles continued on the half hour mark. But the home side raised their game before the break with a well-taken training ground move that saw Loamanu inject some pace down the touchline before feeding Van Niekerk who had an easy run in to score.
Wilkinson's conversion gave Toulon a commanding 12-point lead as they headed to the tunnel.
The task facing Racing was made all the more difficult when scrum-half Nic Berry was sent to the sin-bin early in the second half for slowing the ball down and Wilkinson added to their woes by slotting the penalty. Racing then introduced Chabal in the hope of changing the game but it was Wilkinson who turned the screw after the visitors' captain Lionel Nallet drifted offside at the breakdown.
Toulon lost their shape to a certain degree with Wilkinson's withdrawal in favour of Sebastien Fauque on the hour and were made to pay for their lack of concentration. Another powerful scrum from Racing underlined their dominance in that aspect of the game and took them close to the Toulon line before Berry flicked a neat pass to Masi who strolled over under the posts.
The conversion from Wisniewski closed the gap to 11 points but Toulon squeezed what life was left out of their opponents and Fauque had the final say with a penalty to seal the win.
Toulon: R Lamont, C Marienval, JP Robinson, M Kefu, C Loamanu, JP Wilkinson, MT Henjak, L Emmanuelli, S Bruno, D Kubriashvili, J Suta, RC Skeate, JC van Niekerk, J El Abd, JM Fernandez Lobbe
Replacements: J Djoudi, B Basteres, F Auelua, K Chesney, S Fauque, TA May, A Giacobazzi
Racing Metro 92: B Ward, DGR Scarbrough, H Chavancy, A Masi, P Vakaloa, J Wisniewski, N Berry, M Tuugahala, B Noirot, C Baiocco, FC van der Merwe, L Nallet, J Leo'o, R Vaquin, J Cronje
Replacements: C Festuccia, A Lo Cicero Vaina, S Dellape, S Chabal, J Fillol, F Fortassin, A Galindo
Follow this season's action LIVE on ESPN and ESPN Scrum including exclusive coverage of Toulon v Racing Metro on Saturday
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter