Wilkinson kicks Toulon top
April 17, 2010
Jonny Wilkinson's 23 points sent his Toulon side to the top of the table © Getty Images
Jonny Wilkinson kicked 23 points as Toulon leapfrogged Perpignan with a 33-23 win at a packed Stade Veledrome in Marseille.
The champions played a part in this intense and fiery affair in the Mediterranian port but the English fly-half punished them at every turn, sending over two drop-goals, five penalties and converting one of Luke Rooney's two first-half tries. The action was so fierce that saw Perpignan's Julien Candelon and Guilhem Guirado and Toulon's Mafileo Kefo forced off with injuries within the opening half hour.
Sonny Bill WIlliams has been in the news this week with Graham Henry looking to lure the centre back to New Zealand for the World Cup and he showed just why, reacting to Pierre Mignoni's quickly taken penalty to send Rooney over after 17 minutes. Farid Sid put Perpignan in front for a short period, before Rooney struck again before the break after superb play from former Springbok Joe van Niekerk.
18-13 up at the break, Wilkinson took over and landed a drop-goal within three minutes of the restart. Three penalties and another drop meant that Jerome Porical's try failed to earn the Catalan's a bonus point and they left empty handed.
There were shocks all round in the earlier kick offs as Toulouse, Stade Francais and Brive all slipped up to teams in the bottom four.
Andrew Mehrtens came off the bench to kick Racing Metro from behind to a victory that clinches a play-off place with a 29-22 win over their nearest rivals Biarritz at Stade Colombes in the evening kick off.
The former All Black's accuracy ensures the big spending Parisians made the last six. He kicked two penalties and two conversions and guided his side to victory with Johnny Leo'o and Bernard Le Roux scoring crucial tries.
The home crowd faced a nervous wait when, with the scores tied at 22 all, Sebastian Chabal made a big carry and offloaded to Le Roux who crossed the line. The referee went upstairs and the try was awarded. Mehrtens converted to finish the job.
Before Mehrtens' introduction it had been all one way traffic and Karmichael Hunt's 49th minute try put Biarritz 19-6 in front, Iain Balshaw having earlier crossed for a try. Biarritz looked set to take the fight to the final week, but Racing fought back to secure their play-off spot.
Earlier, a week on from their scintillating victory over Stade Francais, Toulouse travelled to Bourgoin expecting to build on that performance, but fullback Alberto di Bernardo kicked the fourth from bottom side to a 15-13 victory.
The former Leeds Carnegie player landed a penalty, his fifth, from the halfway line to secure the crucial win after Finau Maka had infringed at a ruck. Toulouse scored just three points in a second half that saw them show the effects of last week's efforts.
Hooker Virgile Lacombe got them on their way with an early try, converted by David Skrela, cancelling out a di Bernardo penalty. Skrela and di Bernardo exchanged penalties before the break to make the score 10-6 at the break. The French international's penalty extended the lead to a converted try two minutes after the break, but Toulouse wouldn't score again and di Bernardo kicked them home.
The Parisians outscored the Top 14's bottom side by four tries to three, but discipline cost them dearly and Benjamin Lapeyre kicked his side to a famous win. He nailed five first half penalties to cancel out tries from flanker Antoine Burban and winger Marco Bergamasco and lead 15-12 at the break.
Lapeyre sent over another three points after the interval, before Dave Vainqueur's try filled the hosts with belief. Lapeyre missed the conversion, but added a penalty and then two tries in three minutes from substitute Kevin Boulogne, who escaped Noel Oelschig's tackle to score, and Lapeyre, who picked up on a loose ball to cap his fine display and make the score 38-12.
Tries from Lionel Beauxis and Guilliaume Bousses brought some respectability to Stade on a day to forget.
Third from bottom Bayonne produced a fine display to overcome Brive on a 33-25 scoreline.
The win all but ends any hopes Brive had of reaching the play-off stages as they look destined for a midtable finish. Tries from Thibault Lacrois, Sam Gerber and Ross Filipo were enough for the hosts who raced into a 16-3 lead thanks to Lacroix's try, coming from a fine move involving Manny and Gerber, and kicks from Cedric Garcia as Scott Spedding spent time in the sin-bin.
Gerber intercepted a Fabrice Estebanez pass to score, before England international Jamie Noon pulled the lead back with a try, converted by Victor Palisson. His boot, and Jean-Baptiste Pejoine's try brought the visitors within six points, but Filipo broke from a five metre scrum to finish the job.
Struggling Montauban were the only team in the bottom four to lose, going down 19-6 to Montpellier. Francois Trinh-Duc scored a try for the victors in a strong away win.
The result sees Montpellier confirm their Top 14 status for next season and the France out-half and Argentine Frederico Todeschini's boot saw them home. His penalty was the only score of a dull first half as his side went in 3-0 in front at the break. But they took control thereafter, Trinh-Duc dropped a goal before scoring a try of his own to secure his side's status.
"The thirst for knowledge has seen coaches break away from the confines of rugby and look to America." Tom Hamilton on the two-way learning process
On Saturday, New Zealand face the USA in a match that has been 40 years in the making. Tom Hamilton finds the atmosphere building in Chicago
Most modern rugby players will not know the name Ray Williams but they should be eternally grateful to him, writes John Taylor
With the All Blacks playing the USA Eagles this weekend, Craig Dowd says rugby is ready to make a professional breakthrough Stateside