MATCH REPORT | RC Toulon 25-16 Saracens Men
Saracens Men were knocked out of the European Rugby Challenge Cup after a tough 25-16 defeat to Toulon in the semi-final.
The hosts pulled away in the second half to condemn Sarries to defeat at a raucous Stade Felix-Mayol, meaning it will be Toulon who advance to the showpiece in Marseille.
It was Toulon who started the fastest, and they opened the scoring after just three minutes as Gabin Villiere crossed in the corner. Baptiste Serin’s kick ahead bounced in space, and then from the next phase the ball was spun wide to the French winger who had a clear run to the line. Louis Carbonel’s conversion gave them a 7-0 lead.
Sarries hit back with a penalty from Owen Farrell after 10 minutes, and then they hit the front just after with a brilliant try from Ben Earl.
Farrell had lined up another penalty however it came back off the post, but then Earl charged down the clearance and gathered it himself to stun the crowd and score in the corner. Farrell’s excellent touchline conversion put his side 10-7 ahead.
They had another chance to extend their lead when a penalty was kicked to the corner, but the maul was dragged down and the hosts managed to turn the ball over to the relief of their vibrant supporters.
The North Londoners were starting to click in to gear and were enjoying most of the possession, which was rewarded with another penalty and Farrell dissected the posts to make it 13-7.
Toulon then had a dominant scrum which gave them a kickable penalty, and Carbonel slotted it straight through to cut the lead to three points as we approached the break.
Sarries were caught in possession as they looked to play with ambition, but at the breakdown they were penalised once again and Carbonel had the chance to bring his side level, however the kick went wide and it stayed at 13-10.
Just as it looked like Sarries would head in to the break ahead, a try out of nothing put the hosts in front with the final play of the half. An overlap on the left opened up acres of space for Villiere once again, and he was never going to be stopped as he raced away from just outside the 22. The conversion went wide, but all of a sudden it was Toulon running down the tunnel with a 15-13 advantage.
Saracens started the second half with strong intent and Maro Itoje’s excellent work in a maul earned his side a penalty, but Daly’s long range effort landed just short.
Toulon then looked to counter and Serin’s quickly taken penalty saw him race towards the 22, but he then kicked ahead and it trickled in to touch.
They didn’t have to wait long for another chance though, as Carbonel smashed a penalty through the posts with 30 minutes left as their lead grew to 18-13.
Sarries were having to dig deep with the home side in the ascendancy, but then a much-needed scrum penalty gave Farrell a shot at goal which cut the deficit to just two points.
Jiuta Naqoli Wainiqolo then scored a wonder try as Toulon began to take control of the match. With front foot ball they moved it to the right, and the winger used his incredible pace to step past three defenders and then dot down to send the crowd in to raptures. The conversion from in front of the posts put them nine points ahead.
Sarries then had a golden chance to get right back in the game with a lineout right on the Toulon line, but just as the maul was starting to motor the ball went forward and the opportunity disappeared.
Callum Hunter-Hill then thought he had scored to bring his side back within touching distance, but he was held up over the line and the hosts got the goal line drop out.
That proved to be the last chance, and Toulon then ran the clock down to celebrate an impressive victory as they progressed to the final.