Perpignan power past Toulon
Perpignan clinch semi-final spot in battle of Top 14 rivals
By Simon Dilger. Last Updated: 09/04/11 6:22pm
A spirited second half performance saw Perpignan secure their place in the Heineken Cup semi-finals with a 29-25 victory over Toulon.
The Heineken Cup circus did not disappoint on its first visist to Barcelona, producing an intense clash played out in brilliant sunshine and in front of a carnival atmosphere at a packed Olympic Stadium.
Toulon looked to have the upper hand during the first half as their Top 14 rivals struggled to eliminate the errors from their game.
But, after trailing 11-6 at half time, Perpignan put in a power-packed display during the second half to book a date with either Ulster or Northampton in the last four.
Jonny Wilkinson put Toulon in front after four minutes with a long range penalty after Perpignan were penalised for an offence at the scrum.
Six minutes later Perpignan found themselves a man down when lock Guillaume Vilaceca was sent to the sin-bin by referee Alain Rolland.
Jerome Porical missed an opportunity to level the scores with a howler of a penalty attempt from in front of the posts on 20 minutes.
But Toulon were unable to make their advantage count and, now restored to full strength, Perpignan began to put pressure on their opponents.
The hard work paid off on 31 minutes when Davit Kubriashvili was pinged at the breakdown and Porical made no mistake this time, levelling the scores.
But the Perpignan locks could not seem to get their act together, and within minutes Vilaceca's partner Robins Tchale-Watchou was sent on his way by Rolland to leave his side a man down for a second time in the half.
Wilkinson slotted the penalty to nudge Toulon back in front, but two minutes later Porical wiped out the points with a well-struck effort at the other end.
Within a minute though, stand-off Nicolas Laharrague's indecision cost Perpignan dearly when his delay in getting the ball into touch saw George Smith charge him down and ground the ball.
Wilkinson narrowly missed the conversion from wide out on the right to leave the scores on 11-6 to the 'visitors' at half time.
Still down to 14 men at the restart, Perpignan pulled three back through the boot of Porical two minutes in to cut the deficit to two points.
Laharrague sliced a drop goal attempt three minutes later as Tchale Watchou returned to the fray and Perpignan looked to take the game to Toulon.
The high-tempo start to the second period paid off on 51 minutes when Plante barged his way over in the right corner.
The try was confirmed by the television official and Porical slotted the extras with a fine touchline conversion to take the score to 16-11.
Toulon's response came almost instantly however, when Dean Schofield blasted through the Perpignan defence from the breakdown to put Joe van Niekerk in under the posts.
Wilkinson struck the conversion make it 18-16 but, eight minutes later, replacement prop Taumoepeau gave Perpignan an opportunity to regain the lead when he was caught blatantly offside at the breakdown.
Porical duly added the three points with a fine long range effort from out wide to nudge his side back in front.
And five minutes later, when Toulon were again caught offside in their own 22, the full-back stretched his side's lead to four points with another penalty to make it 22-18.
After a lacklustre opening period the pressure from Perpignan did not let up during the second half and with just seven minutes to go their efforts were rewarded again.
This time it was replacement English prop Perry Freshwater who crossed for the French club and Porical stepped up to boot the conversion to make it 29-18.
In the dying seconds replacement scrum-half Fabien Cibray picked up at the back of the breakdown close to the Perpignan line and whipped around the side to touch down for Toulon.
Wilkinson converted to make it 29-25. But the points only served as a consolation after Perpignan's power-packed second half performance had already taken the game out of reach.