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Top 14
Wilko expects big Toulouse challenge
ESPN Staff
June 4, 2012
Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson and Matt Giteau are all smiles, Clermont Auvergne v Toulon, Top 14 semi-final, Stade Municipal, Toulouse, France, June 3, 2012
Jonny Wilkinson is aiming to team up with Matt Giteau and help Toulon to the a win over Toulouse in the final of the French Championship © Getty Images
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Teams: France | Toulon | Toulouse

Jonny Wilkinson expects no let up for him and his Toulon team-mates when they meet defending champions Toulouse in the final of the Top 14 on Saturday.

Wilkinson kicked five penalties to guide the south-coast team to a 15-12 victory over Clermont Auvergne at the State Municipal in Toulouse, a day after Toulouse had booked their place in the final with a 24-15 win over Castres.

With Luke McAlister in strong form and France captain Thierry Dusautoir determined to sign off his season with a 19th title for Toulouse, Wilkinson knows that Toulon must be at their best at the Stade de France.

"Toulouse have a very experienced and powerful set of players and it will be another big challenge," Wilkinson told L'Equipe. "We will have to prepare very well during the week, and then do all we can to stay in contention till the end of the match. We know it will be a big challenge, but that is why we play rugby."

In the semi-final Wilkinson was able to put his recent wobbles with the boot behind him, notably when he kicked the winner with three minutes remaining. Against Racing Metro in the previous round he was off-target with a number of kicks and had to hand kicking duties to Matt Giteau.

Neither team had much chance to attack with the ball in hand thanks to the driving rain that lashed down throughout the match. As such it fell to the kickers to decide the outcome, while both teams threw themselves at each other in defence.

"I don't think it was a good match to watch from the stands, but for me I found it very, very tough," Wilkinson said. "The rain made things very interesting for both teams. We had to defend very, very well against a team that is very dangerous when it has the ball in hand. We had to stay united because even though the ball slipped around a bit, they still moved it very quickly whenever they could."

Toulon's hard work was nearly undone in the final minute when Bakkies Botha offended at a ruck. It gave Clermont a penalty just inside that Toulon half, but Clermont scrum-half Morgan Parra's kick dropped shot to give Toulon the win.

"It was a shame for Morgan Parra at the end," Wilkinson said. "The penalty kick was right in front, but a little too long. It was a great match and an important result for us. Now we are in the final and we have to do everything we can to get the result that we want. Getting to the final is good, but if we win it, it would be phenomenal."

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