Heineken Cup final: Toulon 23 Saracens 6 match report - England hero Jonny Wilkinson bids adieu by kicking Toulon to a Double

Wilkinson even slots a drop goal to bring back memories of another triumph in his career, writes Hugh Godwin at The Millennium Stadium

Millennium Stadium

Toulon emulated Leicester and Leinster by retaining the Heineken Cup, and so completed the first half of the departing double sought by their celebrated talisman, Jonny Wilkinson. The final of the French Championship against Castres in Paris next Saturday will be Wilkinson’s farewell; yesterday in Cardiff, his starry club were the first from France since Brive in 1997 to beat non-French opposition in landing the European title.

“It’s a hell of a feeling,” said Wilkinson, who kicked two penalties, two conversions of the quality tries in each half by Matt Giteau and Juan Smith, and a signature drop goal before he was presented with the trophy. “I can’t say enough how proud I am to be part of this team, to have been able to play against teams like Saracens. Our season has got one week left but this is something I’ll take with me forever. It’s up there with anything in my career.”

Of the right-footed drop, the No 10 who turns 35 today, said: “Sometimes it’s a pot to nothing, thankfully that one went well. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

This was a meeting of the league leaders in France and England, each chasing a wondrous double with their domestic finals next Saturday, with a veritable rugby Hall of Fame under the closed Millennium Stadium roof led by the starriest from a nostalgic English viewpoint of Toulon’s fly-half, captain and folk hero, Jonny Wilkinson.

In what was always destined to be a game of power, Toulon’s scrum were twice penalised early on, but Saracens ceded some of the initiative with errors by Alex Goode, missing touch with a penalty, and Schalk Brits and Alistair Hargreaves failing to secure a line-out in a good attacking position. As collision followed collision, Saracens, in their first Heineken final and seeking to be the first English winners since Wasps in 2007, led 3-0 with a third minute penalty by Owen Farrell, the 22-year-old incumbent heir to Wilkinson’s England fly-half throne, but Marcelo Bosch and Farrell each missed kicks from beyond the 10-metre line that would have pushed Sarries further ahead.

Wilkinson scores a first-half drop goal Wilkinson scores a first-half drop goal The second came in the 22nd minute after Juan Fernandez Lobbe – one third of a brilliantly varied back row along with Steffon Armitage and Juan Smith – misjudged his jump for the restart after Farrell had been off target with a drop goal attempt, and tugged Hargreaves dangerously in midair. As usual the television match official was employed to check before the yellow card was shown. He was called on again for a much more innocuous challenge by Dave Strettle on Toulon wing Drew Mitchell.

But when the crowd weren’t grinding their teeth at those delays, they were cheering two quality moments by Toulon’s Anglo-Australian maestros that had the reigning champions 10-3 up at half-time.

Get Adobe Flash player

With his team still down to 14 men, Wilkinson changed direction at a midfield ruck near the Saracens 10-metre line, with a knifing pass to Giteau, who made an ugly-looking chip to the right with his left boot. It proved instead to be a thing of beauty, bobbling and bouncing up perfectly for Mitchell to reach it before Goode could – Strettle had pushed up hard and was out of the picture – and offload inside for Giteau, following up, to score the opening try, holding off Richard Wigglesworth’s desperate cover tackle.

Wilkinson converted to extend his amazing record in six knockout matches in the Heineken last year and this to one miss in 27, then pulled out his speciality drop goal off his right foot with 38 minutes gone after Armitage led a powerful Toulon drive.

While a few locals may have recalled wistfully that Toulon’s solitary European pool defeat this season was next door against the otherwise humdrum Cardiff Blues, it was obvious from the start that Wilkinson’s men were not going to fluff the big occasion. Another scrum infringement gave Farrell his second penalty goal on 45 minutes but within another eight Wilkinson from 40 metres had restored the lead at 13-6 after Billy Vunipola – who with Jacques Burger in Saracens’ back row found the Toulonnais nut tougher to crack than anything in the Premiership – was whistled for holding on.

Farrell strained at the leash, making brave breaks. Wilkinson moved more calmly, sharing the strategy with Giteau. Just before the hour, a second Toulon try wounded Sarries badly. Mathieu Bastareaud, the oil tanker of a centre, was freed down the right, and passed to Smith who galloped onwards, and fed Lobbe. The Argentinian could probably have dotted down himself but in a sign of Toulon’s confidence, he passed back to Smith to grab the glory. Wilkinson’s conversion and another penalty made it 23-6 after Farrell was unable to persuade the referee Alain Rolland that he had accidentally baulked Bryan Habana, who was the fourth player to complete the treble of World Cup, Super Rugby title and Heineken Cup.

Saracens sent Charlie Hodgson on for Farrell, but the tide did not turn. Habana was about a hundredth as influential as the brilliant work at the breakdown by Armitage, who apparently has had the door left open to him by the England head coach Stuart Lancaster to join his national team. Lancaster was here to see many more by this clever Toulon team. “It’s just workrate, workrate, workrate,” Armitage said, modestly. For Saracens and their own imminent retiree, captain Steve Borthwick, the season must now be retrieved in the Premiership showdown with Northampton at Twickenham.


Toulon: D Armitage; D Mitchell, M Bastareaud, M Giteau, B Habana; J Wilkinson (capt, M Mermoz 78), S Tillous-Borde (M Claassens 71); X Chiocci (A Menini 46), C Burden (J-C Orioli 41), C Hayman (M Castrogiovanni 56), B Botha (A Williams 53), D Rossouw (J Suta 53), J Smith (V Bruni 72), J Fernandez Lobbe, S Armitage.

Saracens: A Goode; C Ashton, M Bosch, B Barritt, D Strettle (C Wyles 71); O Farrell (C Hodgson 64), R Wigglesworth (N de Kock 52); M Vunipola (R Barrington 64), S Brits (J George 70), M Stevens (J Johnston 53), S Borthwick (capt), A Hargreaves (M Botha 64), K Brown, J Burger (J Wray 61), B Vunipola.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits