Tue 5th May 15 :

Toulon make history with three in a row

 

RC Toulon have joined the realms of the greatest club sides in the history of the game after becoming the first team in the northern hemisphere to win the European Cup three years in a row.

A sensational solo try from Australian wing Drew Mitchell made the game safe for the reigning champions after Clermont full back Nick Abendanon had hauled his side back into the game with another try out of the top drawer.

Those two tries alone were worth the admission price for the crowd of 56,662 at Twickenham Stadium and will go down among the greatest scored in the 20 European Cup finals to date.

Clermont had to reassemble their matchday squad when outside half Brock James suffered a thigh injury in the warm-up and that brought French international Camille Lopez into the starting XV at No 10. And it was Lopez who got the scoreboard moving with an early penalty.

The respective boots of Lopez and Leigh Halfpenny for Toulon kept the score moving and the Welshman ended with three penalties from his four shots at goal in the opening half, while Lopez hit the mark with two fro three. Halfpenny also added the extras on the stroke of half-time to Mathieu Bastareuad's try that gave the champions a lead of 16-11 at the break.

Bastareaud found his way over the line on the short side of a ruck in the Clermont try to match an earlier effort from his French international centre partner, Wesley Fofana. He exploded into action when a charged down kick from Seb Tillous-Borde went to him 40 metres out and he streaked to the corner or a try that lifted Clermont hearts.

Toulon put a stranglehold on the game in the third quarter and another Halfpenny penalty stretched the lead to eight points at 19-11. Short on possession, Clermont showed their were big on heart as they found a way back into the game with a memorable moment of skill from Abendanon as he returned a loose kick out of his 22 by Bryan Habana with interest.

Having taken the ball, Abendanon beat the fist defender, ran into the Toulon 22 and then chipped the ball over the top of the Heineken Man of the Match Ali Williams. He ran past him, regathered the ball and scored behind the posts.

The conversion from Lopez cut the gap to a single point at 19-18 and led to a sensational final 10 minutes. Williams almost scored in the corner for Toulon, the TMO ruling out the try, and then Mitchell put on the after burners to showcase his skills to the Australian selectors as they look for players for the World Cup later in the year.

Mitchell was put into a gap by Tillous-Borde on the Clermont 10 metre line and proceeded to make his way to the line with a run that beat six defenders. It was a sensational effort, although Halfpenny's missed conversion still left the door open for Clermont to snatch the title with a converted try.

They threw the kitchen sink into the closing minutes, but couldn't find a way through the Toulon tacklers. Nigel Owens blew the whistle to end the game after Habana had claimed a mark 10 metres from his line and the celebrations began for the Toulon history makers.