Wilkinson grabs all the points as Toulon edge Stade
PARIS (AFP) –
Jonny Wilkinson inspired Toulon to a fraught 24-19 win at home over Stade Francais in French Top 14 action on Thursday, the England international responsible for all his club’s points.
His eight penalties kept Toulon, who won the last of their three French titles back in 1993, at the Top 14 summit, five points clear of Clermont, who kept tabs on the leaders with an 18-11 win at strugglers Agen.
Stade Francais made Toulon sweat, with the capital side producing the only try of the game, full back Hugo Bonneval running the entire length of the pitch to put his side into a 19-18 lead on 72 minutes.
But Stade were undone by late indiscipline with Wilkinson converting his last two penalties to give Toulon the spoils.
“This game will do us good because everyone was talking about us being champions already, this will keep our feet on the ground,” said Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal.
As for Stade, their sporting director Richard Jones rated the club’s performance “the best away match of the season”.
Toulon, who were made to work considerably harder than in last weekend’s 59-0 drubbing of Bayonne, reckoned they had got off to the best possible start when New Zealand wing Rudi Wulf touched down in the second minute only for his try to be disallowed by the video referee.
Wilkinson though was in trigger-happy mood, missing only one of his penalty attempts, with his last, a 50 metre effort, coming three minutes from time.
Clermont struggled against Agen, with Brook James missing all three conversion attempts for the tries scored by Sitiveni Sivivatu, Jean-Marcellin Buttin and Napolioni Nalaga.
Thursday’s late game saw champions Toulouse beat visitors Racing-Metro 32-13 to maintain third, courtesy of 17 points supplied by Luke McAlister and draw a line under last weekend’s third defeat of the season.
Former All Black McAlister and Yoann Huget scored two tries in the space of three minutes having been led briefly by Racing’s South African lock Francois Van der Merwe to go into the break 15-10 up, wrapping the game up comfortably in the second half.
Head coach Guy Noves said: “Tonight we would have found a wide margin comfortable win normal, but against Racing… it was a real challenge to accomplish this win against a difficult team to keep tabs on.
“It was a victory completed step by step. we never lost the rhythm of our play.”
Fourth-placed Montpellier, who had earlier temporarily climbed to third before the Toulouse win, ran out assured 32-16 winners over bottom side Mont-de-Marsan – Yohan Artru and Timoci Nagusa scoring two tries apiece to bag a bonus point.
Perpignan came away from their trip to Castres as the narrow 38-36 losers.
The Catalans were in front 36-35 inside the closing ten minutes but with seconds left on the clock Rory Kockott kept his nerve to convert the decisive penalty after Perpignan collapsed a scrum.
Elsewhere Bayonne beat Bordeaux 22-11 and Grenoble saw off Biarritz 34-21.
Toulouse were hosting Racing-Metro in Thursday’s late kick-off.