McAlister boots Toulouse to Top 14 glory
June 9, 2012
Toulouse's William Servat leads his side's celebrations following their victory over Toulon in the season finale
© PA Photos
Toulouse made it back-to-back Top 14 titles with a 18-12 victory over Toulon in the season finale at the Stade de France in Paris.
Kiwi playmaker Luke McAlister got the better of a kicking duel with Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson with his six penalties propelling Toulouse to the Bouclier de Brennus and an incredible 19th French title.
The day did not begin well for the European giants with coach Guy Noves forced to make three late changes to his line-up due to injuries with prop Jean-Baptiste Poux, winger Yves Donguy and replacement lock Romain Millo-Chluski all scratched from the team. As a result McAlister, who was due to start in midfield, was switched to fly-half to make with Yann David taking his spot at outside centre and Lionel Beauxis dropping to the bench. Elsewhere, Timoci Matanavou stepped into the void left by Donguy and Gurthro Steenkamp was drafted into the front row.
Toulon opened the scoring in the first minutes of the clash with Wilkinson stepping up to punish some indiscipline from Toulouse but McAlister levelled the scores soon after following a blatant infringement from lock Simon Shaw. McAlister was then wide with a drop goal attempt midway through the half but was on target a couple of minutes later from the kicking tee after his pack had earned a penalty at scrum time.
But back came Toulon with their pack upping the ante to earn two penalties of their own that Wilkinson slotted to give his side a 9-6 lead. But McAlister would level the scores once again before the break.
The tit-for-tat exchange continued after the break with first McAlister and then Wilkinson splitting the uprights. The intensity of the clash saw tempers flare early in the second half with Toulouse hooker William Servat, in his last appearance for the club, and his Toulon counterpart Sebastian Bruno both sin-binned.
Toulon's hopes were then dealt a significant blow when prop Davit Kubriashvili was sin-binned just past the hour mark for repeated scrum infringements. McAlister wasted little time in hammering home his side's advantage and his latest success was swiftly followed by his sixth penalty.
Wilkinson failed to drag his side back into the contest but there was still time for Toulon to carve a golden opportunity for winger David Smith only for the ball to go to ground. A knock on from Beauxis handed Toulon one final chance to turn the game on its head and notch their first title since 1992 but Toulouse fronted up once more to snuff out the danger and spark delight among their fans.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery
Monday Maul takes in retirement talk, England reshuffles, France's unfair advantage and Scotland's communication breakdown
John Griffiths takes an analytical look at Week 3 of ESPN Scrum's Fantasy Rugby game - who should you have picked?
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin