James makes Toulon pay penalty after Giteau error
PARIS (AFP) –
Brock James landed a penalty on the final whistle to give 2010 French champions Clermont a thrilling 24-21 win over Top 14 leaders Toulon on Saturday.
The Australian – who had been mostly off colour with the boot during the game – made last season’s beaten finalists pay for a rare moment of bad judgement by Toulon’s former Australian fly-half Matt Giteau.
Giteau, whose international career came to a brutal end last year when he was surprisingly left out of the World Cup squad, handled the ball into touch as the game seemed to be heading for a draw with Jonny Wilkinson having scored all the visitors points.
James then stepped up to put over the penalty and reduce Toulon’s lead to just two points over them in the table.
Defending champions Toulouse are third after beating Montpellier 27-9 on Friday.
“It was a really tense match, but I think that we were worthy winners,” said Clermont coach Vern Cotter.
“We scored two tries to zero. Our team has a real soul to it.
“We were missing leaders on the pitch today, but the team is a unit.
“We were solid in both attack and defence and even with just 14 players we managed to win.
“It is an enormous effort. This game is the first in a series of huge games for us and this win will do us the world of good.”
Wilkinson gave Toulon an early 6-3 lead with two penalties after James had dropped a goal, but blotted his copybook with a missed penalty.
However, the hosts went 10-6 up just after the quarter-of-an-hour mark as Fijian star Napolioni Nalaga went over in the left hand corner for the first try of the match which was converted by James.
Wilkinson too proved to be mortal when in the 27th minute he failed to get enough power on his long range penalty in front of the posts and it dropped just shy.
However, he pulled them to within a point with another penalty, but James restored the four point margin right on half-time with another drop goal.
Clermont pulled further away in the 56th minute as New Zealander Regan King went over for their second try but James, who was having one of his off-days with the boot, failed to land the conversion.
Wilkinson showed James how to do it by landing two penalties in quick succession to leave Toulon trailing by just three points with 13 minutes remaining.
The pressure told on Clermont as with Toulon, prompted brilliantly by former Wallabies star fly-half Giteau, all over them veteran centre Aurelien Rougerie was yellow-carded nine minutes from time for handling on the ground.
It was further punished as Wilkinson kicked the resulting penalty to make it all square but with the hosts condemned to finishing the match a man down.
However, James then landed a penalty which was cancelled out by Wilkinson with a drop goal a minute from time after Clermont had given away possession but further drama was to come with Giteau’s moment of madness, leaving Rougerie looking much-relieved.