Saturday, October 9, 2010

Wilkinson's Toulon defeat Ospreys

Toulon (6) 19
Try: Sackey. Con: Wilkinson. Pens: Wilkinson 4.
Ospreys (6) 14
Try: S Williams. Pens: Biggar 3.

Toulon wing Paul Sackey celebrates his winning try against the Ospreys
Toulon wing Paul Sackey celebrates his winning try against the Ospreys

Paul Sackey snatched victory for Toulon in their Heineken Cup Pool 3 opener at home against the Ospreys.

The wing was set free by England team-mate Jonny Wilkinson, who fixed the Welsh defence with a jinking run before sending a huge pass off his right.

Ospreys had seemed set to edge the win thanks to Shane Williams' try but had to settle for a losing bonus point.

Toulon's Wilkinson and rival fly-half Dan Biggar exchanged penalties in a lacklustre first half that ended 6-6.

Neither 10 had a vintage afternoon aiming at the posts but Wilkinson was far superior in the tactical stakes.

In contrast Biggar's kicking for position was ill-considered and badly executed, handing the initiative back to Toulon runners in good positions and putting his Ospreys team-mates under unnecessary pressure.

The Wales fly-half did need treatment for an injury midway through the first half but soon returned to the field after having his head bandaged.

Jerry Collins was one of the standout performers for the Ospreys, working tirelessly to turn over possession against his former club - and perhaps with a point to prove after his stay at the Stade Felix-Mayol.

The New Zealand back-row did blot his copybook with a daft block on a chaser from the kick-off for the second half, handing Wilkinson the chance to put Toulon 9-6 ahead.

It took 60 minutes for either try line to come under threat but Williams made the most of it with a moment of quality rare so far in the game.

Replacement Ospreys hooker Huw Bennett did well to scamper back to secure a loose ball in the Toulon 22, although referee Alan Lewis was signalling a penalty for a deliberate knock-on by a French hand.

Williams was on hand to pick up from the mini-ruck and, spotting a lack of defenders down the Toulon right, scampered down the blindside and stepped inside last defender Rory Lamont to score.

Biggar continued his poor afternoon by missing the conversion - not straight-forward but well within the scope of an international fly-half - and then a penalty two minutes later from a similar position, just outside the 22 and 20m left of the posts.

Fortunately Wilkinson followed that with his second drop-goal miss of the afternoon, normally such a strength of his game.

But the England fly-half made amends as Toulon sniffed victory, first striking a penalty to move within two points of the visitors and then spiralling a huge pass out to Sackey for the clinching try.

Wilkinson added the touchline conversion that left Ospreys needing a converted try to win.

But the Welsh side never gathered themselves for one last push and - like in last season's quarter-final at Biarritz - were left having thrown away a win on French soil.

Toulon: R Lamont; P Sackey, M Kefu, G Messina, B Lapeyre; J Wilkinson, M Henjak; S Taumoepeau, J Orioli, D Kubriashvili, D Schofield, C Samson, O Missoup, G Smith, J Fernandez Lobbe [capt].
Replacements: M Ivaldi, B Basteres, M Merabet, T Sourice, T May, C Marienval, L Magnaval, J Suta.

Ospreys: Lee Byrne; Tommy Bowe, Andrew Bishop, James Hook, Shane Williams; Dan Biggar, Mike Phillips; Paul James, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Ian Gough, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Jerry Collins, Marty Holah, Jonathan Thomas.
Replacements: Huw Bennett, Ryan Bevington, Craig Mitchell, Ryan Jones, Justin Tipuric, Jamie Nutbrown, Gareth Owen, Nikki Walker.

Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland).

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