Toulon 16 Clermont Auvergne 15 Heineken Cup final match report: Delon Armitage and Jonny Wilkinson finally bring reward for Toulon

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Vast investment by Mourad Boudjellal pays dividends as two of his England players produce the telling moments in final

Aviva Stadium

When Toulon’s wealthy owner Mourad Boudjellal began assembling a who’s who of rugby for his proud port-town club on the Côte d’Azur a few years ago it was not to ensure himself the finest autograph collection on the planet.

His squadron of thirtysomethings spearheaded by Jonny Wilkinson had the brilliant nous to make Clermont pay for over confidence in the second half of this first Heineken Cup final for both clubs and take a barely believable victory in Dublin.

Clermont were strolling at 15-6 up going into the final quarter when Wilkinson – who had been culpable in both of the Massif Central mob’s tries – kicked a penalty followed by the conversion of the deciding try after 63 minutes. Wesley Fofana was hauled down by Bakkies Botha and Joe van Niekerk and Juan Fernandez Lobbe leapt in with typical and peerless intuition to flip the ball away to Delon Armitage, who ran the try in, his tongue sticking out in premature celebration. The 30-metre conversion on the diagonal was no problem to Wilkinson, as England’s most beloved rugby son who turns 34 next Saturday had not missed a kick throughout. Frantic Clermont attacking brought only a charged down drop by David Skrela and a last, tired pass knocked on out wide.

Toulon had knocked out Leicester and Saracens without scoring a try in previous rounds but Clermont were a different kettle of bouillabaisse.

Wilkinson, seeking a first club title since he and Newcastle won the Tetley’s Bitter Cup in 2001, got going with a clattering as he leaped to catch the kick-off, a full-on tackle on Aurélien Rougerie (one of many outsized backs on view) and a failed touch-finder with his right foot. The one-time poster boy for The Lancet has found the south of France a place of healing and this was his 102nd start in four seasons for Toulon.

What they most wanted though was a trophy in return for all Boudjellal’s lavish spending on men he believed had the character to worry about more than just the chequebook. In the fourth all-French final of the Heineken Cup the clash of styles was evident from the off; Toulon running colosusses like Andy Sheridan – one of eight Britons in the two cosmopolitan squads – round the corners whereas Clermont attempted to spring their runners Fofana and company free like corks from a Champagne bottle.

Clermont were always the likeliest to score a try but they were made to wait. The scoreline of 3-3 at half-time – Morgan Parra’s 45-metre penalty after three minutes equalised by Wilkinson 10 minutes later for Gerhard Vosloo not rolling away – was testament to Toulon shutting down half a dozen half-breaks. There was also the tightest of calls against Wilkinson’s opposite number, Brock James, who was just over the dead ball line when he reached his own chip over the heads of Chris Masoe and Juan Fernandez Lobbe; this after a turnover on Toulon’s left as Delon Armitage led a breakout.

James suffered un-Wilkinsonian agonies in this city three years ago when he missed four drops at goal and gave up trying in a one-point losing quarter-final against Leinster. Mention of whom raises the subject of the wrangles this competition is going through. The European Rugby Cup Ltd secretariat, based just up the road in St Stephen’s Green, have been busy pumping out figures emphasising the squillions of euros being made by the Dublin economy from staging this final and the Amlin Challenge cup one that Leinster (the Heineken holders who were knocked out of the main event by Clermont) won on Friday. It will be Paris’s turn next May and then … what? The 2014-15 schedule is up the air; what we do know is the top six seeds for next season’s Heineken Cup, will be three from Ireland, three from France.

But the Englishmen in Toulon’s ranks, at least, were about to have their day. This first part of a possible European-domestic double header – Clermont and Toulon could meet again in the Paris final of the Top 14 on Saturday week – livened up with Clermont’s tries in the opening seven minutes of the second half, either side of Wilkinson’s second penalty. First the fly-half,  captaining Toulon, was tackled and stripped of possession by Sitiveni Sivivatu, allowing James and Rougerie to fox Danie Rossouw and the rashly rushing wing Alexis Palisson, with Napolioni Nalaga free to run into the left corner. Then James worked a lovely move off a ruck, right to left, chipping behind Wilkinson and Mathieu Bastareaud for Rougerie to run on, brush Wilkinson aside and return a pass inside for James to score and Parra to add the conversion: 15-6.

What seemed a procession was soon transformed by Wilkinson’s third penalty and Armitage’s try. Far from Toulon weakening it was Clermont’s main men Rougerie, James and Parra who withdrew. Ti’i Paulo was harshly judged to have knocked on in one charge, Skrela – on for James – was in no good position for his drop and Sivivatu, of all people as the most dangerous Clermont back, delivered the faulty pass to Paulo that finished his side off.

Clermont Auvergne: L Byrne; S Sivivatu, A Rougerie (capt, R King, 68), W Fofana, N Nalaga; B James (D Skrela, 73), M Parra (L Radoslavjevic, 71); T Domingo (V Debaty, 66), B Kayser (T Paulo, 66), D Zirakashvili (C Ric, 73), J Cudmore, N Hines, J Bonnaire, D Chouly, G Vosloo (J Bardy, 68).

Toulon: D Armitage, A Palisson, M Bastareaud, M Giteau, R Wulf; J Wilkinson (capt), S Tillous-Borde (F Michalak, 51); A Sheridan (G Jenkins, 61), S Bruno (J-C Orioli, 51), C Hayman, B Botha (J Suta,68), N Kennedy, D Rossouw (J van Niekerk, 51), C Masoe (S Armitage, 68), J Fernandez Lobbe.

Referee: A Rolland (Ireland).

News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness