Toulon thrash toothless Sharks
December 16, 2012
Toulon's Steffon Armitage charges forward against Sale
© Getty Images
Toulon whitewashed pointless Sale Sharks 62-0 in the Heineken Cup on Sunday with the hosts condemning the visitors to their worst European defeat.
The Top 14 leaders were sensational against the Aviva Premiership's bottom-placed side as they made it four wins from four in Pool Six. The Armitage brothers, Steffon and Delon, were at the fore for the big-spending French outfit as the Sharks shipped nine tries in suffering a crushing loss.
Sale held firm for the first 30 minutes on the Cote D'Azur but they were cannon fodder after that as Jean-Charles Orioli, Freddie Michalak - who started ahead of Jonny Wilkinson - Joe van Niekerk (two), Davit Kubriashvili, Rudi Wolf and David Smith joined the Armitage boys on the scoreboard.
It was all Toulon in the early stages but they led just 3-0 after turning down a number of kickable penalties and being regularly rebuffed by a Sale side who initially refused to roll over. Bakkies Botha appeared to have finally got the game's opening try as the match hit the 25-minute mark but the giant Springbok lock followed Steffon Armitage in seeing the TMO say 'no try' when referee Jon Lacey asked the question.
Delon Armitage then touched down out wide three minutes later only to see the score ruled out due to Matt Giteau's knock-on following a huge hit from Mark Cueto. Sale finally cracked just past the half-hour, though, when hooker Orioli crashed over at the back of a driving maul. Former London Irish second row Nick Kennedy set the platform with a solid lineout take just five metres out and the rest of the pack completed the training ground exercise by powering forward at an impressive pace to give Orioli his chance.
Michalak added the extras for a 10-0 lead before Pierrick Gunther went close only to see the TMO again rule against Toulon as the pressure on the Sale pack continued to mount. Michalak then showed his class to really dent Sale hopes four minutes before the break as he slipped outside Danny Cipriani's poor tackle from a five-metre scrum before ducking underneath Will Cliff's last-gasp effort to stretch over by the right-hand post.
The simple conversion pushed Toulon three scores clear at 17-0, leaving the game as good as dead by the interval despite Sale's superb rear-guard efforts in the opening 40 minutes. Any thoughts Sale might have had of a remarkable comeback were ended just five minutes after the restart when Van Niekerk stepped past Rob Miller for his team's third try after a deft give and take from Steffon Armitage.
Toulon had the bonus point wrapped up by 50 minutes as Delon Armitage mirrored his brother in producing a wonderful offload to allow Kubriashvili to blast over while Fraser McKenzie was in the sin bin, with Michalak's third and fourth conversions making it 31-0 with nearly half an hour still to play. Simon Shaw's yellow card threatened to halt Toulon's momentum but it made little difference as Steffon Armitage scored the try his all-round performance deserved as he crashed through Cipriani from two metres out after 58 minutes.
Delon then joined the party just moments later as he showed his footballing skills by chipping through three defenders, tapping on, picking up and diving over for Toulon's sixth score. Michalak finally missed from the tee with his seventh attempt but he was back on target to claim a 20-point tally when Giteau's weaving run saw Van Niekerk add his second as Toulon hit 50 with 12 minutes left.
Rudi Wolf scored the eighth try after a fine pass from Wilkinson, before Smith completed the rout after picking up the former England star's kick ahead with the final play.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
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