Oct 15, 2016
Report: Saracens make history in Toulon
Saracens produced a performance of the ages as they defeated Toulon 31-23 in round one of the Champions Cup at the Stade Felix Mayol.
Owen Farrell produced a Man of the Match performance in Saracens’ famous win, with Sean Maitland, Richard Wigglesworth and Chris Wyles all scoring on the day.
The Stade Felix Mayol is European Rugby’s impenetrable fortress. Europe’s elite have visited the colourful and intimidating home of RC Toulon in Europe’s Premiers competition and all have left licking their wounds. The star studded Cote d’Azur outfit though were blown away by a blistering Saracens first half performance that left the usually boisterous and vocal home faithful stunned.
This was vintage Saracens. Tenacious, committed and clinical. Three tries cored and no losing bonus point for the hosts. In the build-up to Saturday’s game, director of rugby Mark McCall publically backed his side to ‘thrive’ in the Mayol caldron, and his words were prophetic. Three tries in the opening half and arguably some of the finest rugby this current crop of Saracens may have played to date up against the three time champions who more often than not, bully opponents at their home ground.
Leading the charge for Sarries was Owen Farrell. His boss McCall described the England man as the best player in Europe in the week, and his performance in his come-back appearance underlined such a label. He was voted Man of the Match providing direction, nerve and a physical edge that would surprise many observes that he’d ever been away at all.
Farrell and his former British and Irish Lions teammate Leigh Halfpenny had traded early penalties, a piece of individual brilliance from Sean Maitland saw the visitors cross for the games first try. The summer recruit from London Irish, Maitland has settled into his new side almost seamlessly and underlined his bourgeoning ability with a wonderful one handed finish in the corner after the superb Jamie George fired out a bullet pass on the move to provide Maitland with the half chance he needed.
Saracens forwards were on top and after squeezing the Toulon attack with some typical tigerish defence they were over again, when Richard Wigglesworth ran under the posts to score collecting a sumptuous offload from the influential George.
Sarries were in the box-seat, with Owen Farrell a real influence on the game. His break after Leigh Halfpenny sent over a 28th minute penalty set up Sarries third of the day, and what a team effort it was.
Wing Chris Wyles finished off a wonderful team move after an initial Farrell break. Centre Marcelo Bosch cut-back against the grain as Sarries recycled the ball with Toulon scrambling back for position. The ball found lock George Kruis who passed to his partner in crime Maro Itoje who inturn drew the covering defender to release Wyles to score.
Saracens headed into the sheds in the driving seat, but a Toulon response was imminent.
The home-side left the field to jeers from the irate locals and showing their champion credentials were soon clawing their way back into a bruising contest.
Halfpenny continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over with a 42nd minute penalty but the game would change with two yellow cards. The first to Ma’a Nonu galvanised the Toulon side and the sin-binning of Maro Itoje provided them with the momentum to mount a comeback.
The hosts scored their first try of the game with Saracens down to 14-men when Levan Chilachava powered over from close range. Halfpenny converted.
The locals were now in full throttle and the rolling thunder of the Toulon side had Sarries worried. After Alex Goode produced a tackle of the ages on Bryan Habana to save a certain try, the Springbok wing would get his customary try minutes later with the field resembling a Rourke’s Drift with bodies left strewn across the turf.
Sarries though dug-in and they would have to play the final ten minutes once again down to 14-men when Schalk Burger was sin-binned on 71 minutes played.
Steered by the excellent general Richard Wigglesworth and with two massive scrums winning pressure relieving penalties, Sarries slowed the tempo and looked to see out the game.
Then the all-important penalty from Owen Farrell sealed a famous win for the north Londoners, leaving the hosts with nothing to show for their part in a European classic
Final Score: Toulon 23 Saracens 31
15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14. Josua Tuisova, 13. Matt Carraro, 12. Ma'a Nonu, 11. Bryan Habana; 10. Francois Trinh Duc, 9. Sebastien Tillous-Borde; 1. Florian Fresia, 2. Guilhem Guirado, 3. Levan Chilachava, 4. Samu Manoa, 5. Mamuka Gorgodze, 6. Charles Ollivon, 7. Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 8. Duane Vermeulen (C)
Replacements: 16. Jean-Charles Orioli, 17. Xavier Chiocci, 18. Manasa Saulo, 19. Liam Gill, 20. Mathieu Bastareaud, 21. Pierre Bernard, 22. Eric Escande, 23. Romain Taofifenua
15 Alex Goode; 14. Sean Maitland, 13. Marcelo Bosch, 12. Brad Barritt, 11. Chris Wyles; 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Richard Wigglesworth; 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Jamie George, 3. Juan Figallo, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. George Kruis, 6. Jackson Wray, 7. Schalk Burger, 8. Billy Vunipola.
16 Schalk Brits, 17. Richard Barrington, 18. Petrus du Plessis, 19. Jim Hamilton, 20. Michael Rhodes, 21. Ben Spencer, 22. Alex Lozowski, 23. Michael Ellery.
Scores Tries Maitland(9); Wigglesworth(14); Wyles(38):
Cons Farrell 2/3:
Penalties Farrell x 4; Bosch 0/1: