Heineken Cup: Jonny Wilkinson's Toulon beat Clermont Auvergne 16-15 in thrilling final
By Mark Kendall - Twitter: @SkySportsMK. Last Updated: 18/05/13 9:11pm
Jonny Wilkinson's Toulon staged a dramatic fightback to edge out French rivals Clermont Auvergne 16-15 in a thrilling Heineken Cup final in Dublin.
Favourites Clermont looked on course to complete a perfect European campaign as two tries in eight second-half minutes gave them a nine-point lead, but Wilkinson - who finished with 11 points - kept his side in touch and then kicked what proved the decisive conversion after fellow Englishman Delon Armitage went over 15 minutes from time.
Clermont made the ideal start as Morgan Parra kicked them ahead with a long-range penalty on two minutes, but Toulon were back on terms ten minutes later when Damien Chouly was caught on the wrong side at a ruck allowing Wilkinson a regulation penalty from in front of the posts.
A predictably physical and tight contest from the off, Clermont's slippery winger Sitiveni Sivivatu made the first break of note as he darted through on 21 minutes, but Toulon's scrambling defence recovered superbly and Clermont were eventually penalised.
As the half drew on, Clermont imposed themselves as the attacking force and made more line-breaks, notably through the impressive Wesley Fofana, but Toulon defended with both commitment and intelligence to keep them at bay.
Clermont stand-off Brock James came within a whisker of claiming the first try on 35 minutes, spotting space in behind after a Toulon attack had broken down, he chipped forward and beat Chris Masoe for pace to touch down his own kick but was denied as the video official confirmed the ball had run dead by a matter of inches.
Clearly in the ascendancy, Clermont maintained their momentum on the restart and were rewarded with the game's opening try, Nalaga - the tournament's top try-scorer - producing a quite brilliant finish down the left touchline after being set free by Aurelien Rougerie.
Parra missed the conversion from out wide and Toulon undid much of the damage as Wilkinson slotted his second penalty after a poor kick from James had allowed them the chance to set up a drive from a line-out.
But James more than atoned for his error moments later as he was on the shoulder of Rougerie, who collected the No 10's deft chip forward before offloading, allowing the Australian to race away to the line for his side's second try which Parra converted for a 15-6 lead.
Despite being outplayed for long spells, Toulon refused to lie down and somewhat incredibly were ahead by the 65th minute.
Wilkinson added his third penalty on the hour mark to get his men back within a converted try and then a superb piece of play by Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe at the breakdown released Armitage to race away and touch down unopposed - Wilkinson obliging with the conversion to put his side 16-15 up.
A frantic finale then ensued as Clermont desperately searched for a winning score, replacement David Skrela saw an attempted drop-goal charged down by Wilkinson and ultimately Toulon hung on for their first Heineken Cup triumph.
Heineken Cup final 2012/13
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- Will's Dublin Blog
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- Far from ideal
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