Top 14: Toulon book their ticket to Paris final
Last Updated: 24/05/13 10:28pm
Matt Giteau makes some hard yards for Toulon
Toulon remain on course for a Heineken Cup and French league double after beating Toulouse 24-9 in the first Top 14 semi-final in Nantes.
Toulon will now face either Clermont or Castres in the final at the Stade de France in Paris on June 1.
The defending champions ensured the clash was a highly entertain spectacle, throwing the ball around like a hot potato in the classic Toulousain tradition, but in the end it was Toulon's more pragmatic approach that prevailed.
Toulon led 8-6 at the break thanks to a try from ex-Springbok Danie Rossouw, before a late score from English full-back Delon Armitage sealed victory for the newly-crowned European champions.
These teams played out a try-less final this time last year, but it took just two minutes for Rossouw to find is way over the whitewash after a pinpoint kick-pass from former Toulouse stalwart Frederic Michalak.
A weak scrum cost Toulon the Top 14 title a year ago and they were dealt two heavy blows before kick-off with the last-minutes withdrawals of props Carl Hayman and Gethin Jenkins, both due to calf injuries.
And it was a scrum penalty that gave Toulouse their first points via the boot of Luke McAlister.
Jonny Wilkinson kicked his first three-pointer to restore the five-point gap only to see McAlister reply in kind on the half-hour mark.
RCT would hold a two-point lead until the break thanks to a controversial TMO decision to deny Toulouse a try for an apparent forward pass.
Toulouse moved ahead early in the second period when Census Johnston got the better of Andrew Sheridan at scrum time and McAlister hit the target from the kicking tee.
The English prop would soon have his revenge however as the next penalty went against Johnston and Wilkinson could put Toulon back in front at 11-9.
Wilkinson landed a crucial blow just after the hour mark with a trademark drop goal to give his team a bit of breathing room.
The pressure began to tell as unforced errors put a stick in the spokes of Toulouse's expansive gameplan. A knock-on from McAlister gave Toulon a scrum from which they claimed another penalty which Wilkinson landed from long range.
Again Toulouse would pay the price for pushing their attacking intention too far as Gurthro Steenkamp coughed up a loose pass, handing Armitage the opportinuty to race home to secure the win for Toulon.