Toulon kept alive their hopes of a Top 14 and European Cup double with a hard-fought 16-6 win over Racing Métro.
The difference between the teams in Friday night's Top 14 semi-final in Lille came down to the almost indestructible Jonny Wilkinson, who contributed 11 points, including a high-pressure drop goal which in effect put the game beyond the reach of the desperate Racing team.
The only try of the night was scored by Wallabies centre Matt Giteau, thanks to the relentless work of Springbok wing Bryan Habana, who proved once again the value of a determined and committed chase. Racing failed to deal with high ball from Wilkinson and Habana hacked on. He was shoulder-charged out of the contest, but Giteau was on hand to stretch across the line.
Toulon ended 7-6 up at the break, but could have been behind if Racing flyhalf Jonathan Sexton had succeeded with a drop-goal attempt to add to his two penalties.
Racing never got a look-in thereafter as the contest developed into a test of defence; one which Racing lost as Wilkinson finally found his radar to add two penalties and then from scrappy play put over a brilliant right-foot drop-goal, amazingly reminiscent of his World-Cup winning effort for England a distant 11 years ago.
Toulon face a testing two weeks as they regroup for the European Cup final against Saracens next Saturday. Then they have to focus on the winner of the next Top 14 semi-final, between Montpellier and Castres, being played Saturday.
Castre's South African scrumhalf Rory Kockott was the hero of last year's final and was once again the star of the show in the shock semi-final win over Clermont. They will be looking to him to set the pace.
Toulon – Try: Matt Giteau. Conversion: Jonny Wilkinson. Penalties: Wilkinson (2). Drop goal: Wilkinson.
Racing Métro – Penalties: Jonny Sexton (2).
Toulon – 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Drew Mitchell, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Steffon Armitage, 7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Jocelino Suta, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Xavier Chiocci.
Subs: 16 Jean Charles Orioli, 17 Alexandre Menini, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Virgile Bruni, 20 David Smith, 21 Maxime Mermoz, 22 Michael Claassens, 23 Martin Castrogiovanni.
Racing Métro – 15 Juan Martin Hernandez, 14 Adrien Plante, 13 Henry Chavancy, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Jacques Cronje, 7 Bernard le Roux. 6 Antoine Battut, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Juandré Kruger, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 Virgile Lacombe, 1 Julien Brugnaut.
Subs: 16 Jeremie Maurouard, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Fabrice Metz, 19 Wenceslas Lauret, 20 Mike Phillips, 21 Fabrice Estebanez, 22 Benjamin Fall, 23 Brian Mujati.
Photo: Francois Lo Presti/AFP Photo