Wilkinson shines in sun in front of manager Johnson
Toulon 19 Ospreys 14: Fly-half combines with fellow England hopeful Sackey to give French big-spenders a precious victory over ambitious Ospreys
Sunday 10 October 2010
Jonny Wilkinson gave the England team manager, Martin Johnson, a timely reminder of his abilities ahead of next month's autumn international series with an inspirational second-half display that sank the Ospreys. The Toulon fly-half kicked 14 points and also helped to set up Paul Sackey's late match-winning try in front of Johnson and the national team's attack coach, Brian Smith.
Wilkinson said: "I knew that they were here but they are here to support. It's not a case of trying to impress and show what I can do. It's more the advice I need, but I haven't spoken to them yet."
Johnson will have been worried when Wilkinson crashed to the floor inside the opening six minutes of the match – particularly given that the man who has replaced the 31-year-old in England's starting XV, Toby Flood, had pulled out of Leicester's concurrent tie in Treviso, which had been meant to be his first match back from a knee injury. But the Lions and England No 10 recovered from a dead leg to guide the big-spending French club home, after the Ospreys' Wales wing Shane Williams had pounced for an opportunist try on the hour.
Wilkinson said: "I was in an awkward position when I went to tackle [the Ospreys Ireland wing] Tommy Bowe and it was knee on knee but it's OK. It's a bit sore now but it's my good knee. Other players have worse. It is important for someone like Toby that he is given the right amount of time to get back to his best and to keep playing as well. He's a good player and I hope he gets back to good form. It's a shame and sad to hear he has not played but hopefullyhe will be involved soon."
The 2003 World Cup winner is in talks over a £1.37 million, two-year extension to his existing Toulon contract which would keep him in the south of France until the 10th anniversary of his famous match-winning drop-goal in Sydney.
Johnson is also on the lookout for a new captain, thanks to the eye injurysuffered last weekend by the Bath flanker Lewis Moody, who led England against Australia this summer. Wilkinson, however, seemed to rule himself out.
He said: "I don't think I will be getting that. I try and play like I play anyway. I try to be responsible and do what I can. Sometimes that means shouting a lot and organising but captain or not captain, I try to do the same job. Maybe when I was younger the title would have been important but not now. It's a privilege and honour but I don't think it will be me."
Johnson and Smith were also able to watch Sackey, the former Wasps wing who had a quiet afternoon before displaying his predatory instincts to score the winner. Wilkinson, however, took centre stage in his battle with the young Wales fly-half Dan Biggar. The Ospreys No 10, who had said before the match that Wilkinson had been his childhood hero, kicked his team ahead inside 90 seconds. From Biggar's deep kick-off, Wilkinson was caught by the lock Ian Gough and Toulon were penalised at the ensuing ruck for handling the ball on the floor.
That allowed Biggar to kick the penalty and the Ospreys, who have reached the Heineken Cup quarter-finals in the past three seasons, were off to a good start. They dominated possession but Biggar missed with a drop-goal and then a penalty attempt.
Wilkinson drew Toulon level in the 14th minute but he then missed three penalty attempts in a row. But in the 31st minute he succeeded from close range to put Toulon ahead for the first time.
Biggar scored the final points of an error-ridden opening period with a 60-metre penalty that tied the scores at 6-6 heading into the interval. Wilkinson restored Toulon's advantage after the break, before the Ospreys scored the opening try on the hour. The forwards Ryan Jones, Paul James and Jerry Collins could not find a gap in the home side's defence before Williams slipped through on the short side and stepped inside Toulon's Scotland full-back Rory Lamont to touch down.
Biggar missed the conversion and Wilkinson reduced the Ospreys' lead to two points with a touchline penaltyin the 74th minute. Sackey then scored the match-winner from Wilkinson's pass.
The Ospreys director of coaching, Scott Johnson, who downplayed a possible timing issue concerning the Irish referee, Alan Lewis, said: "We are disappointed with the result. We had the opportunity to win but we couldn't close it down. We have to be honest with ourselves and come back in what is a short turnaround."
Toulon R Lamont; P Sackey, M Kefu, G Messina, B Lapeyre (C Marienval, 66); J Wilkinson, M Henjak (L Magnaval, 61); S Taumoepeau (B Basteres, 62), J Orioli (M Ivaldi, 61), D Kubriashvili, D Schofield (J Suta, 61), C Samson, O Missoup, J Fernandez Lobbe (capt), G Smith.
Ospreys L Byrne; T Bowe, A Bishop, J Hook, S Williams (N Walker, 68); D Biggar, M Phillips; P James, R Hibbard (H Bennett, 58), A Jones, I Gough (R Jones, 53), A W Jones (capt), J Collins, J Thomas, M Holah (J Tipuric, 77).
Referee A Lewis (Ireland).
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