Top 14 - Round 25 Review
Toulon win set to trigger Wilkinson move
May 9, 2009
Toulon skipper Joe van Niekerk crossed for one of his side's two tries © Getty Images
Toulon are assured of Top 14 rugby next season after securing a 22-12 victory over strugglers Dax at Stade Maurice Boyau on Friday night.
With survival now guaranteed, the big-spending club are expected to complete the signing of England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson from Guinness Premiership side Newcastle Falcons. The deal for the high-profile No.10, worth a reported £850,000 a year, is set to be finalised in the next few days. Wilkinson, who is 30 next month, has not played since suffering a dislocated kneecap last September, but he is understood to have passed a club medical.
Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal said last night the club will announce on May 18 - two days after the end of the Top 14's regular season - the list of players they will be bringing in for next season. Felipe Contepomi, Sebastien Bruno, Pierre Mignoni and Kris Chesney are among the players to have already signed for Les Varois, who will be managed by Philippe Saint-Andre from next season.
Utility back Tom May, Wilkinson's team-mate at Newcastle, is also heading to Toulon.
Maxime Petitjean gave Dax an early lead with two penalties but Toulon rallied with the opening try of the game from captain Joe van Niekerk. A drop goal from Sebastien Fauque and a penalty from Conrad Barnard either side of half time edged them further ahead but another brace of penalties from Petitjean saw the lead change hands once again. But back came Toulon with two more penalties from Barnard and a try from Sinoti Sinoti just past the hour mark proved the decisive score.
With the play-off teams confirmed, the battle to avoid relegation was the focus of this weekend's Top 14 action and Toulon's nervy victory over Dax edged their hosts nearer to the drop with confirmation coming on Saturday following Bourgoin's 31-23 win against Castres. As a result, Dax will join Mont-de-Marsan in ProD2 next season.
Centre Rudi Coetzee crossed for an early try but Castres responded with three penalties and a try for lock Kiril Koulemine. Bourgoin lock Connie Basson reduced the arrears before the break with his side's second try but Castres stretched their lead when centre Lionel Mazars at the start of the second half. David Forest's converted try closed the gap to a point and then the boot of Benjamin Boyet carried the hosts to victory courtesy of three penalties.
Elsewhere, Brive best Montpellier 28-18 to keep their Heineken Cup qualification hopes alive. England fly-half Andy Goode was once again a key figure slotting three drop goals, three penalties and a conversion.
League leaders Perpignan cemented their place at the top of the table with a 19-9 victory over Montauban. Julien Candelon and Gavin Hume both crossed for tries with the bonus point eventually coming via a penalty try.
Four penalties from the boot of David Skrela were enough for Toulouse to record a narrow 12-9 while Clermont Auvergne ran in ten tries on their way to a 63-3 victory over Mont-de-Marsan. Fijian winger Napolioni Nalaga notched a hat-trick of tries with Aurelien Rougerie also grabbing a brace.
Biarritz upset Stade Francais 16-12 at the Stade Jean-Bouin in Paris, with centre Damien Traille scoring the only try and moving his side close to a Heineken Cup spot for next season. Stade remain fourth, guaranteed of a semi-final place but a long way behind leaders Perpignan and Toulouse.
Next week's last round of matches will see Brive, Bayonne and Biarritz battle for Heineken Cup qualification. The top six places in the table at the end of the regular season potentially offer a spot in Europe's premier competition but should Bourgoin win this season's European Challenge Cup then only the top five will qualify.