Toulon 38-17 London Irish, Heineken Cup, December 18
Toulon quell Exiles' uprising
December 18, 2010
Olivier Missoup scored Toulon's first try
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Toulon underlined their credentials as contenders in Pool 3 of the Heineken Cup with a 38-17 bonus-point victory over London Irish at the Stade Mayol on Saturday.
The Top 14 high-rollers ran five tries past a gutsy Exiles side, who played the last 36 minutes of the match with 10 men following the sending off of winger Sailosi Tagicakibau. During that time they silenced the vociferous home crowd with two quickfire tries to Chris Malone and Alex Corbisiero, but the hosts were guided to the summit of the group by the superb Felipe Contepomi.
The Pumas playmaker was given the nod ahead of a rested Jonny Wilkinson and showed his full repertoire of skills, scoring a solo try and landing 13 points with the boot. Forwards Olivier Missoup and Mickael Ivaldi got them on their way with first-half five-pointers while former Newcastle centre Tom May and Japanese international Christian Loamanu bagged late scores to set the seal on a vital victory.
After a typically rousing rendition of their Pilou pilou war cry from the Mayol faithful, Toulon's pack flexed their muscles at the scrum and maul in the opening exchanges, winning a penalty to allow Contepomi to open the scoring on five minutes.
A box kick out on the full from Toulon scrum-half Pierre Mignoni gifted the Exiles field position just before the 10 minute mark but after several phases of possession Malone sent a drop-goal wide of the uprights. A poor couple of minutes for the fly-half also included him missing a penalty touch after good breakdown work from his pack undid the damage caused by a well-timed break from Australian legend George Smith.
The Exiles frequently found themselves on the wrong side of official Alain Rolland as the half wore on and the Irish referee was reaching for a yellow card on 22 minutes as Tagicakibau prevented a certain try with a cynical slap-down, Toulon having carved an opening thanks to some superb hands from Contepomi.
Moments after the Samoan international had trudged from the field the home side were celebrating their first try, with flanker Missoup crashing over from close range once the forwards had engineered space along the flank usually guarded by the Exiles' absent wing. Contepomi curled in a brilliant conversion from the touchline to open up a 10-point lead on 24 minutes.
Excellent work on the floor from Steffon Armitage won a penalty for the visitors when Mignoni was forced to pluck the ball from a ruck but his brother, England fullback Delon, saw a hopeful blast at the posts from inside his own half fall well wide of the target.
The hosts struck seconds before half-time to knock the wind out of their rivals and unfortunately for Toby Booth's Exiles they played a major role in their own downfall. Scrum-half Paul Hodgson failed to release the ball after Toulon were awarded a penalty and with his patience wearing thin Rolland was happy to let play continue as the ball was quickly punted downfield. Hodgson scampered back and did well to scramble the ball into touch but from the ensuing lineout the Toulon forwards piled in, Mignoni picking out an inch-perfect pass for the 20-year-old Ivaldi to pirouette across the whitewash.
Contepomi again struck from out wide to ensure a comfortable 17-0 lead at the break and the Exiles' lot swiftly went from bad to worse after the resumption when Tagicakibau was sent off after paying the price for his team's persistent infringing on the floor with a second yellow card. The clock had just ticked over to 44 minutes, leaving the men from Reading facing a mountainous task.
Malone put one foot on the road to recovery by knocking over a penalty five minutes later and the Australian was soon off and running as he crashed over for an unlikely try. Replacement George Stowers and lock Nick Kennedy had carried well in midfield before Armitage applied some pace to proceedings, stepping through a tackle and offloading basketball-style to Malone, who dusted himself down to add the extras and make it a seven-point game on 54 minutes.
Toulon continued to unravel as the Premiership side threw everything at them, with the introduction of Corbisiero having an immediate impact. The former England Under-20 prop got through bags of work as the Exiles' pack hammered away around the fringes and was duly rewarded as he smashed through a double hit to score. Malone was again on target with the conversion to level the scores up but another error with the boot in open play, a shot out on the full, gave Toulon the field position to bite back.
The excellent Contepomi hauled his side back onto an even keel after they had shipped 17 unanswered points, straightening the line and stepping his way past three tackles for a classy individual score.
May was soon in on the act after capitalising on a fine turnover from ex-All Black prop Saimone Taumoepeau. The midfielder outfoxed Armitage with a perfectly-judged dummy and coasted home, with Loamanu showing similar class in the dying moments to round off more good work from Contepomi with a step and finish in the shadow of the posts.
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