Wilkinson imperious as Toulon hammer Perpignan
PARIS (AFP) –
Jonny Wilkinson was in imperious form as he kicked 26 points and set up two tries to help Toulon consolidate their lead of the Top 14 with a convincing 46-13 victory over Perpignan on Sunday.
The former England fly-half was on target with six penalties, five in the first half, and four conversions for a 100 percent kicking ratio as Toulon turned on the power after the break with four tries.
But the player who won the 2003 World Cup for England with an injury-time drop-goal also showed the full array of his passing skills with two monster misspasses to set up Samoa-born winger David Smith for a brace of tries.
“We worked hard tonight,” said Wilkinson. “In each match, from the start of the season, we’ve given everything we’ve got.
“But we know that that continues from tomorrow morning. This win is a good way to finish the year but we await the next match and we’ll have to win that one as well.”
It was Perpignan who had taken the early lead, winger Joffroy Michel pouncing on a chip kick from Wales international James Hook that evaded Rudi Wulf.
Wilkinson pulled back a penalty, with counterpart Hook missing two in the meantime.
The Englishman then knocked over a second, David Mele responding for Perpignan in place of Hook, who went off injured to send a further wave of panic through depleted Welsh ranks ahead of the Six Nations.
Top French referee Romain Poite was then forced to threaten to call the game off if lasers pointed at him and Perpignan players from the crowd continued.
From then on in, Wilkinson bossed his side home, Smith taking his season tally to six tries when he crossed in the corner after a looping Wilkinson pass out wide.
And the winger went over for his second of the game after another trademark long Wilkinson pass — measured at 29 metres — following good work from Maxime Mermoz and Matt Giteau.
Replacement flanker Pierrick Gunther muscled his way over late in the game for a brace of tries of his own, the latter of which handed the home side a crucial bonus point.
The result means Toulon sit atop the French league after 14 matches on 56 points, with Clermont, who had earlier notched up a runaway 48-3 win at home over lowly Bayonne for a 52nd straight home win, in second on 49.
Tries from Wesley Fofana (2), Fiji winger Napolioni Nalaga (2), Jean-Marcellin Buttin and Kiwi centre Benson Stanley gave the on-form Auvergne side the full five points.
Bayonne started well and were still level at 0-0 after the first quarter, but a Morgan Parra penalty broke the deadlock and two tries from Fofana after 25 and 31 minutes, both converted by Parra, opened the floodgates.
Clermont were 20-3 ahead at half-time and it was more of the same in the second half as a brace from Nalaga, and tries from Buttin and Stanley rounded off an impressive win.
France international scrum-half Parra was flawless with the boot, kicking all the penalties and conversions that came his way with Brock James and David Skrela stepping in when he went off.
In other games, third-placed Toulouse snatched a vital 18-16 away victory at fourth-placed Castres, the home side’s South African scrum-half Rory Kockott missing a penalty three minutes from time.
Fifth-placed Montpellier were in impressive form with a 54-16 demolition of Stade Francais, whose defence was woeful in the six-tries-to-one defeat, Argentina winger Martin Bustos Moyano claiming 29 points from a try, six conversions and four penalties.
Grenoble cemented their sixth place with a 19-9 victory over Bordeaux, while Racing-Metro eased their troubles with a 40-6 win over Agen.
Bottom team Mont-de-Marsan were edged 19-18 at home by Biarritz.