Toulon 15-11 Wasps: Defending champions strengthen bid for a quarter-final place with an untidy home win
Wasps came agonisingly close to a historic win as they were edged out 15-11 by Toulon
Guy Thompson had surged over on 70 minutes to give Wasps a 11-8 lead
Drew Mitchell though crossed for the winning try in the final play of the match
Guy Thompson scored the winning try as Wasps completed a Champions’ Cup double over three-time champions Toulon courtesy of an 11-8 win at Stade Felix Mayol…
… is what we would be writing if Toulon hadn’t been on the right side of late, late drama as a Drew Mitchell try on the last play of the game snatched a 15-11 home victory from the jaws of defeat on the Mediterranean coast.
Quade Cooper opened the scoring with a try early on, before his halfback partner Eric Escande added a penalty goal for an 8-0 home lead.
But Wasps hit back almost immediately, Jimmy Gopperth notching a penalty of his own to make it 8-3.
However that proved to be the last change on the scoreboard before the break; Gopperth finally added a second three-pointer on 62 minutes to hand the visitors an opportunity of taking the spoils.
And it was an opportunity they took as Number 8 Guy Thompson crashed through no fewer than five defenders to go over for the first try of the second half and seemingly secure a major win for the Coventry-based side, before Mitchell’s late, heartbreaking heroics.
With qualification already sealed for both sides, a dour game unfolded, but sparked into life in the dying minutes.
A typical winter’s afternoon in the south of France saw both sides scrap for the upper hand during the opening exchanges.
Wasps were far from their European best, while Toulon’s stars struggled the shine early on.
But it was one of those stars who struck the breakthrough as 58-cap Australia international Cooper finished a length-of-the-field move after a Wasps error.
Though Escande failed to land his conversion attempt, he atoned with a penalty goal ten minutes later as Bernard Laporte’s men looked to establish a comfortable lead.
Gopperth cut that gap to five points within minutes, but that was as close as the visitors came in the first half as the opening 40 minutes began to ebb away.
Defence then got on top with both sides failing to find their cutting edge in attack.
Gopperth got the game’s next points, adding his second penalty of the match just after the hour following a Frederic Michalak miss minutes earlier.
With a two-point lead to defend, Toulon were under pressure for the final quarter and they were finally breached with ten minutes to play as RUCK Man of the Match Thompson, crashed through some flimsy defence to put Wasps into a shock 11-8 lead.
The Premiership strugglers were manful in defence and looked to have sewn up a historic win, completing the double of their illustrious hosts, but Mitchell had other ideas as he romped through a blind alley to score, Michalak converting, stealing the points and going top of their pool in the process.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Wasps: Guy Thompson
Thompson was immense throughout. The Hereford-born Number 8 got through a mountain of work down the middle in arguably his best Wasps performance to date. Unfortunate to be on the losing side against a star-studded Toulon side.
Toulon: 15 Drew Mitchell, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Eric Escande, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Jocelino Suta, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Florian Fresia.
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Manasa Saulo, 19 Mamuka Gorgodze, 20 Frederic Michalak, 21 Maxime Mermoz, 22 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 23 Thibault Lassale
Wasps: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Ben Jacobs, 11 Frank Halai, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 George Smith, 6 Sam Jones, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Edd Shervington, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Rob Miller.
Date: Sunday, January 17
Venue: Stade Felix Mayol
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Leighton Hodges (Wales), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Jonathan Mason (Wales)