Wilkinson inspires Toulon to Stade rout
PARIS (AFP) –
Jonny Wilkinson kicked 17 points for Toulon as the Top 14 leaders ended a four-match losing streak away from home on Saturday with a 43-11 rout of Stade Francais.
The former England fly-half, who confirmed reports he was all set to extend his contract with Toulon for another year, kicked seven from seven while his side ran in four tries in the first Top 14 match to be played under a closed roof on its debut in Lille.
Defeat for Stade means for the fourth season running they will not contest the end of season title play-offs.
“The pressure was on us against a good side but we responded to the challenge perfectly,” said Wilkinson.
“We are almost there with reagrds to extending my stay and I have said all season if I thought I could contribute something to the team next season I wanted to stay.
“I love playing with really good players and good coaches and that is what we have here,” added the 33-year-old.
Wilkinson got the first score on the board in the seventh minute with a penalty after Stade’s kicker Jules Plisson had missed an opportunity down the other end.
Wilkinson added another penalty in the 19th minute but Plisson reduced the deficit to three points (6-3) a few minutes later.
The inimitable Wilkinson then made it 9-3 with an impeccable drop goal – a league leading eighth of the season – from distance in the 26th minute.
The league leaders extended their lead further in the 30th minute as Fernandez Lobbe touched down after the try had been created by a delightful kick by Alexis Palisson behind a virtually non existent Stade defence.
England fullback Delon Armitage selflessly passed to Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, even though he could have probably touched the ball down himself, and Wilkinson converted for 16-3.
Wilkinson added another penalty four minutes before the break as Toulon eased away against a Stade side devoid of inspiration although Plisson gave them the last score of the half with another penalty to make it 19-6 at half-time.
However, the hosts lost scrum-half Lucas Rubio, their third choice in that position promoted to start his first Top 14 game because of injuries to the other two, and had to be replaced by Australian fly-half/centre Paul Warwick.
Stade, though, gave Toulon a shock early in the second-half as Waisea Vuidravuwalu blocked Palisson’s clearing kick and the Fijian wing touched down in the corner – Plisson missed the conversion to leave Toulon 19-11 ahead.
Toulon restored their supremacy as Palisson was at the end of a sweeping backs move in the 57th minute to score their second try which was brilliantly converted by Wilkinson from the left touchline for 26-11.
Stade’s problems were exacerbated as they were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes when Julien Arias was sin-binned and former All Black backrow forward Chris Masoe made them pay with a try in the 67th minute while Wilkinson converted for 33-11.
Toulon added another try through Steffon Armitage which was converted by Wilkinson for 40-11 and Matt Giteau rounded off the rout with a penalty from long range on the final whistle.
Second-placed Clermont ran in 10 tries in a 66-21 demolition of Agen to extend their undefeated run at their Marcel-Michelin stadium to 57 matches.
They will be looking to extend that stretch next Saturday when they welcome Montpellier in the European Cup.
Champions Toulouse ended Racing-Metro’s hopes of a 10th successive win with a 27-26 victory secured by a last-minute try from Vincent Clerc converted by Lionel Beauxis.