Clinical Toulon retain European title

A Jonny Wilkinson-inspired Toulon beat Saracens 23-6 in a ferocious Heineken Cup final at the Millennium Stadium.

    Only Leicester (2001-02) and Leinster (2011-12) have previously won in successive European championships [AFP]
    Only Leicester (2001-02) and Leinster (2011-12) have previously won in successive European championships [AFP]

    Star-studded French club Toulon became the third team to retain the Heineken Cup with a 23-6 win over Saracens in the final, ensuring England great Jonny Wilkinson will retire a two-time European champion.

    Only Leicester (2001-02) and Leinster (2011-12) have previously won European club rugby's biggest prize in successive years.

    I can't say enough how proud I am to be part of this team. This is something I will take with me forever.'

    Jonny Wilkinson, Two-time European champion

    Toulon's cast of stars were a notch above Saracens, with Australians Giteau and Drew Mitchell, South Africans Bakkies Botha, Danie Roussouw Bryan Habana and Smith and Argentina captain Juan Manuel Fernandez Lobbe joining forces to create an unstoppable force in the Welsh capital.

    And in back-row forward Steffon Armitage, Toulon had the man of the match who dominated the breakdown and stole possession four times in front of England coach Stuart Lancaster.

    Armitage is not in Lancaster's thinking ahead of next year's World Cup because he is playing outside England but this was as persuasive a performance as he could have produced on the biggest stage.

    Toulon were clinical when the try line came into view, with Giteau's score coming in the 29th minute when Wilkinson switched play to find the Australian who sent a kick toward the right wing.

    Drew Mitchell beat covering Saracens full back Alex Goode to the bouncing ball and passed it down to Giteau, who raced in for a converted try in the right corner.

    Wilkinson then dropped a goal with his right foot to give Toulon a 10-3 halftime lead.

    Saracens hardly got a sniff in the second half after Farrell reduced the deficit to four points.

    Multiple Heineken Cup winners
    • Four - Toulouse
    • Three - Leinster
    • Two - Leicester, Wasps, Munster, Toulon

    Wilkinson made it 13-6 with a penalty before Smith grabbed the key try, exchanging passes with Fernandez Lobbe on the right wing after Mathieu Bastareaud had been freed by Mitchell.

    Wilkinson converted and struck a sweetly hit penalty to confirm Toulon would be kings of Europe again, justifying the fortune spent on the team by owner Mourad Boudjellal, who made his millions from publishing comic books.

    Wearing a huge grin, Wilkinson raised the trophy aloft as he was being lifted into the air by teammates on the winner's rostrum. 

    "It's a hell of a feeling,'' Wilkinson said. "I can't say enough how proud I am to be part of this team. This is something I will take with me forever.''

    A career that reached the heights in 2003 when he kicked the winning drop-goal in the World Cup final comes to a close next week in the Top 14 final against Castres, when Toulon go for a first French title in 22 years.



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