Wilkinson denied as Perpignan stride into last four
Perpignan 29 Toulon 25
Perpignan dashed Jonny Wilkinson's hopes of playing in a first Heineken Cup semi-final after beating their arch-rivals 29-25 here on Saturday.
Wilkinson kicked four from five attempts but failed to inspire his team in his – and the club's – first appearance in the last eight of Europe's top club competition. Instead it was another England international, former Test prop Perry Freshwater, who was the hero of the game, scoring Perpignan's winning try 10 minutes from time.
Toulon outscored their opponents three tries to two following scores from George Smith, Joe van Niekerk and a late consolation effort by Fabien Cibray. But they failed to capitalise on their first-half domination, during which Perpignan were twice reduced to 14 men following yellow cards.
The Catalans turned the tables after the break through Adrien Plante and the boot of Jerome Porical, before Freshwater's score capped an impressive second-half display by the 2003 cup finalists.
A record crowd for a Heineken Cup quarter-final of 55,000 basked in the sunshine within Barcelona's Olympic Stadium to vindicate Perpignan's decision to take their home tie to the Catalan capital. However, they feared they had thrown away home advantage when they trailed 11-6 at the end of an undisciplined opening 40 minutes.
Perpignan was a team transformed after the break though, wing Julien Candelon looked dangerous while flanker Bertrand Guiry blew a golden chance when he failed to collect Nicolas Laharrague's cross-field kick.
It was from the fly-half's hefty kick into the Toulon corner that Perpignan finally broke Toulon's resistance. A typical driving lineout opened space for scrum-half Florian Cazenave who sent the ball spinning wide where Plante touched down.
Porical converted yet no sooner had Perpignan taken the lead for the first time than Toulon responded from the kick-off. Dean Schofield burst through before finding captain Van Niekerk, who charged between the posts.
Perpignan regathered with two more Porical penalties before replacement Freshwater followed Guilhem Guirado's burst to score what proved to be the winning score. Cibray's injury-time score merely softened the blow on the scoreboard for Toulon, who suffered European heartache for a second season after losing the Amlin Challenge Cup final last year.
Scorers: Perpignan: Tries Plante, Freshwater; Conversions Porical 2; Penalties Porical 5.
Toulon: Tries Smith, Van Niekerk, Cibray; Conversions Wilkinson 2; Penalties Wilkinson 2.
Perpignan Porical, Plante, Marty, Grandclaude, Candelon, Laharrague, Cazenave, Schuster, Guirado, Mas, Vilaceca, Tchale-Watchou, Guiry, Chouly, Tuilagi. Replacements Geli, Freshwater, Pulu, Alvarez, Mele, Hume, Michel, Tonita.
Toulon Lamont, Wulf, Messina, Lovobalavu, Loamanu, Wilkinson, Mignoni, Emmanuelli, Bruno, Kubriashvili, Chesney, Schofield, Fernandez Lobbe, Smith, Van Niekerk. Replacements Genevois, Taumoepeau, Tussac, El Abd, Contepomi, Sackey, Cibray, Samson.
Referee A Rolland (Ireland).
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