Toulon 32 Exeter Chiefs 20 match report: Toulon show lively Chiefs who’s boss

A Jonny Wilkinson try seals it for the French side against plucky Exeter

Stade Felix Mayol

The joyous scene that erupted in this port town’s beguiling theatre of rugby when Jonny Wilkinson scored the match-settling try for Toulon was almost incidental to the Heineken Cup, even though it set the holders of the trophy up for a tasty battle over quarter-final qualification with the Cardiff Blues in Nice next month.

As the feted former England fly-half sidestepped past the Exeter flanker Don Armand to the posts, thousands of copies of the local Var-Matin newspaper were tossed in the air, having been placed on each spectator’s seat in readiness for just such a moment.

“We want Jonny,” sang the throng, mindful of the Toulon owner-chairman Mourad Boudjellal’s comments yesterday morning that the 34-year-old Wilkinson might yet have another year in him, if his body holds up. An alternative scenario is retirement next summer and the signing of Leigh Halfpenny and Toby Flood to replace him.

For Exeter, who by contrast are just getting used to the delights of European competition, this was a brave and in one way bitterly controversial defeat. “To give this competition the credit it deserves we will continue to go flat out,” said Rob Baxter, the Exeter coach, although it would take some unlikely results to keep his side involved.

There was enough ebb and flow – including a forward-pass first-half try to Toulon’s David Smith that had Baxter and everyone else from the south of the France to the Exe estuary utterly baffled – to keep the flamboyant Boudjellal dancing in his touchline vantage point. The millionaire comic-book publisher confirmed he is in talks to bring Wales’s Halfpenny here, while strong rumours surround a move for Flood of England, but the interest in the Wales captain Sam Warburton has cooled. “We will have to replace two players in one [if Wilkinson retires in June],” said Boudjellal, “a playmaker and a kicker with a 90 per cent success rate like Jonny has.”

Bernard Laporte, the Toulon head coach, said Flood’s transfer from Leicester might hinge on Wilkinson’s decision, due to a limit on foreign players. Wilkinson himself made a nod towards this quota issue, saying: “I’m contemplating the decision every day, every match, every week. I’m keeping it very simple and it’s not just about me, it’s about other people as well and the best interests of this club.”

Laporte smiled: “We want Jonny to play forever; he is unique. If he does stop then Halfpenny, who has not signed yet I don’t think, can take the kicks. We speak about Toby, but there are rules in France and we can’t take everyone. We have to see whether Jonny goes or not.”

Toulon’s former England full-back Delon Armitage has agreed a  two-year contract extension, but his dual qualification does not count  towards the 16 foreigners Toulon are permitted.

Smith’s second try of the match in the 37th minute was awarded when the Television Match Official Dermot Moloney and referee John Lacey somehow approved the pass the wing received from Matt Giteau, who started at fly-half with Wilkinson on the bench. The interpretation that the ball can fly forwards as long as the passer’s hands point backwards is questionable. For the ball to travel ahead of both Giteau and Smith, who shrugged off Jack Nowell and Luke Arscott to score, appeared plain ludicrous.

“The ball went three metres forwards but it seems you’re more likely to see that kind of try awarded when the TMO looks at it than if it is left to the referee and touch judge,” said Baxter. “It’s a decision for the governing bodies. The reality was we had opportunities to score two tries earlier in the game and should have taken them.”

When Giteau converted that try it moved Toulon 12-7 ahead – Smith’s opener had been overturned by a try from Armand created by Arscott’s long pass and Tom James’s step inside Alexis Palisson – and with two penalties each by Giteau and Slade it was 18-13 with 54 minutes gone.

Thereafter Toulon’s heavy mob of Harlem Globetrotter forwards held sway – Ali Williams of the All Blacks in the line-out; the Springbok flanker Juan Smith on the floor – assisted by a generous attitude from Lacey to the home team after the tackle.

Wilkinson jogged on in the 58th minute and within another 10 the lead was 32-13, with his try added to one from a plot familiar from his England days: line-out ball off the top moved into midfield where an inside pass from Wilkinson to the onrushing Drew Mitchell was finished by Xavier Chiocci.

At least the concluding try, by Ben White for Exeter, converted by Ceri Sweeney, gave the wacky wearers of Chiefs headdresses some late fun in the Côte d’Azur sun.

Line-ups:

Toulon: D Mitchell; A Palisson (D Armitage 18), M Bastareaud, M Mermoz, D Smith (J Wilkinson 58); M Giteau, S Tillous-Borde (F Michalak 72); F Fresia (X Chiocci 60), J-C Orioli B Noirot 67), C Hayman (M Castrogiovanni 55), J Suta (K Mikaautadze 72), A Williams, J Smith, S Armitage, C Masoe (capt; V Bruni 11).

Exeter: L Arscott; J Nowell, I Whitten, P Dollman (S Hill 67), T James; H Slade (C Sweeney 72), H Thomas (W Chudley 75); B Moon (B Sturgess 67), J Yeandle (C Whitehead 67), H Tui (A Brown 67), D Mumm (capt), J Hanks (D Welch 54), T Johnson (B White 55), D Armand, D Ewers.

Referee: J Lacey (Ireland).

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice