Toulon 18-21 Biarritz, Amlin Challenge Cup final
Harinordoquy delights in Biarritz triumph
May 18, 2012
Retiring prop Sylvain Marconnet gets a kiss from his captain Imnaol Harinordoquy as Biarritz celebrate their victory over Toulon © Getty Images
Imanol Harinordoquy was delighted to turn the tables on Jonny Wilkinson as Biarritz edged out Toulon 21-18 to win the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Biarritz were kicked to victory by Dimitri Yachvili, who landed seven penalties in a faultless kicking display as the Basque outfit won their first European title. Wilkinson kept Toulon in touch with five penalty kicks of his own and a trademark drop-goal, which brought the scores level at 18-18 after 66 minutes.
The former England fly-half was in position for a last-gasp drop-goal attempt that would have taken the game into extra-time - but the Toulon pack left him stranded, conceding a penalty on the eighth phase of the attack that confirmed Biarritz's victory.
"Jonny Wilkinson has given a hard time to me in the past and he has done it to Dimitri as well - but tonight it was Dimitri who gave Toulon a difficult time," said Harinordoquy.
Biarritz had to win to qualify for the Heineken Cup for a 13th consecutive season after finishing ninth in the Top 14 in a disappointing domestic campaign. For Yachvili, who tasted bitter defeat with France in the 2011 World Cup final, tonight's victory was extra sweet.
"We have lost two Heineken Cup finals, in 2006 and 2010. This is not the Heineken Cup but it is a title for us," Yachvili said. "It has been a very hard season and that is why we are very happy tonight. We never gave up. They tried to keep the ball for Jonny's drop goal but we defended very well. We deserved to win tonight. It would have been very sad to lose two finals in the same season."
Toulon were reduced to 13 men in the second half after Carl Hayman and Steffon Armitage were sin-binned and captain Joe Van Niekerk rued their discipline. The South African No.8 also regretted how Toulon had wasted their chance of a late drop goal to force extra time.
"Jonny was on song tonight. We had an opportunity there but we went one phase too many and it caused the obstruction," Van Niekerk said. "Overall our discipline let us down. Thirteen against 15, it's an uphill battle. All credit to the boys, they hung in there and showed a lot of heart."
Toulon now turn their attentions to the Top 14 and next weekend's quarter-final against Racing Metro as they chase a first title in 20 years.
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