Wilkinson kicks Toulon to Top 14 final
June 3, 2012
Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson and coach Bernard Laporte celebrate victory over Clermont Auvergne © Getty Images
Jonny Wilkinson kicked five penalties to lead Toulon to a 15-12 win over Clermont Auvergne in their Top 14 semi-final clash at the Stade Municipal and set up a final showdown with defending champions Toulouse next weekend.
With three minutes left Wilkinson ignored the driving rain to kick the winning points that set up a final against Toulouse at the Stade de France next Saturday. Morgan Parra had the chance to pull Clermont level with a last-minute penalty, but his kick dropped agonisingly short.
Neither side was able to produce many attacking moves and the wet conditions meant that attacks broke down with a spilled or loose pass. Three penalties from Wilkinson, to two in reply from Parra meant Toulon were 9-6 ahead at the break.
After half-time the attritional play continued, though Toulon kept themselves ahead until Davit Kubriashvili collapsed a scrum with seven minutes to go. Parra booted Clermont level, but his side almost immediately re-ofended when a number of players went in front of David Skrela's chip and Wilkinson landed his fith penalty. On the stoke of full-time Bakkies Botha offended at a ruck, but Parra was unable to add to his total.
Toulouse remain on course for back-to-back Top 14 titles following a hard-fought 24-15 victory over Castres in their play-off semi-final clash at the Stade Municipal on Saturday night. The boot of Luke McAlister proved decisive in a try-less contest with the Kiwi centre landing six penalties to help see off a brave Castres outfit.
Toulouse weathered the loss of both centre Florian Fritz and prolific winger Timoci Matanavou to yellow cards in the opening period to build a 15-12 lead at the break but it needed a superb try-saving tackle from winger on Vincent Clerc on Castres centre Max Evans late in the half to preserve their narrow advantage. Three penalties in the first half hour from McAlister and a further six points from fly-half Lionel Beauxis had put the hosts in control but Castres playmaker Pierre Bernard and fullback Romain Teulet kept their side very much in the match.
The tit-for-tat exchanges continued in the second half but crucially, Castres were never able to get ahead in the game. McAlister's penultimate penalty on the hour mark gave his side a precious six-point cushion and his final contribution ten minutes later finally saw off their resolute rivals.
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