Jonny Wilkinson bows out in style as Toulon win Top 14 Final
Toulon gave Jonny Wilkinson the perfect send off by beating Castres 18-10 in the Top 14 Final at the Stade de France.
Wilkinson, in his final match as a professional, was the star of the show as Toulon claimed their first domestic championship title since 1992 and in doing so became the first French team since Toulouse in 1996 to win the Heineken Cup and the Bouclier de Brennus in the same season.
In a rematch of last year’s final, Wilkinson kicked 15 of his team’s points while full-back Delon Armitage added a late long-range penalty to seal a deserved win in a no-frills display.
It was hardly a classic encounter, but there will be no complaints from the faithful back at Stade Felix Mayol, who turned out in their thousands to watch their team make history.
Toulon led 12-10 at the interval thanks to three Wilkinson penalties and a drop goal in reply to Max Evans’ try for Castres.
Wilkinson opened the scoring from the kicking tee after Yannick Caballero was penalised for interfering with Toulon scrum-half Sebastien Tillous Borde when RCT were camped on the Castres line.
But Castres struck straight back with the game’s first try via Scotland wing Evans.
The TMO required a long time to decide whether Rory Kockott had knocked on as he and Delon Armitage battled in the air but to collect Evans’ kick ahead after he had broken clear deep inside his own half.
It was a close call but it controversially went in favour of the defending champions, who took the lead against the run of play.
Once Armitage and Kockott had been pulled apart the Castres scrum-half added the easy conversion.
Wilkinson narrowed the gap to a single point after the Castres scrum coughed up a penalty but Kockott replied when Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe was pinged for not using the gate.
Trademark drop goal
The Toulon scrum won another penalty which Wilkinson duly knocked over before the former England fly-half put his side back in front with a trademark drop-goal.
Kockott missed two long-range efforts before the break to leave Toulon ahead by two as the teams swapped ends.
Wilkinson extended the lead with a fantastic kick from out wide after Rodrigo Capo Ortega pulled down a maul on 53 minutes before Armitage sent one over from 50 metres in the dying minutes.
Toulon did not miss the opportunity to pay tribute to England legend Wilkinson and played God Save the Queen over the tannoy after the final whistle.
Pens: Wilkinson 3, D. Armitage
Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Drew Mitchell, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Sebastien Tillous Borde, 8 Steffon Armitage, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Xavier Chiocci.
Replacements: 16 Jean charles Orioli, 17 Alexandre Menini, 18 Jocelino Suta , 19 Virgile Bruni, 20 Danie Rossouw, 21 Maxime Mermoz , 22 Michael Claassens, 23 Martin Castrogiovanni
Castres: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Max Evans, 13 Romain Cabannes, 12 Remi Lamerat, 11 Remy Grosso , 10 Remi Tales, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Yannick Caballero, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Saimone Taumoepeau.
Replacements: 16 Mathieu Bonello, 17 Yannick Forestier, 18 Christophe Samson, 19 Jan Bornman, 20 Cedric Garcia, 21 Seremaia Bai, 22 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 23 Mihaita Lazar.
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Referee: Christophe Berdos