Toulon celebrated a historic double with a 18-10 win over Castres in the Top 14 final on Saturday.
The after-match celebrations contained wonderful fireworks and glitter, which helped to make up for the dismal fare on the field. It was a typically high-pressure final with both sides hammering away, defending hard, playing safe and gaining not much. At the end, possession and territory was 52-48 to Toulon, which shows how poised the match was.
The new champions, though, were the more determined and focused, allowing Jonny Wilkinson to take the glory with four penalties and (surprise, surprise) a drop goal in his last game after an illustrious career. With the European Cup being secured with a monumental display against Saracens the previous week, perhaps it was too much to expect a free-running repeat. But they did enough to become the first team since Toulouse in 1996 to win the European Cup and the Top 14 in one season.
Justice was done. Toulon topped the table at the end of the season while Castres, looking to make history themselves by defending their title, had sneaked into the play-offs and surprised even themselves by getting so far. Much of the success was down to their mercurial scrumhalf Rory Kockott, who on this night missed two vital kicks at goal.
Toulon found themselves 7-3 behind after 11 minutes when Max Evans touched down by collecting a hack ahead. That was as good as it got for Castres. Wilkinson chipped away, but it says much that at 15-10 ahead, they decided to give Delon Armitage a 60m shot; probably recognising that they did not have the firepower to break through Castres' defence. It was that kind of game.
Toulon – Penalties: Jonny Wilkinson (4), Armitage. Drop goal: Wilkinson.
Castres – Try: Max Evans. Conversion: Rory Kockott. Penalty: Kockott.
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 Martín Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Xavier Chiocci.
Subs: 16 Jean Charles Orioli, 17 Alexandre Menini, 18 Jocelino Suta , 19 Virgile Bruni, 20 Danie Rossouw, 21 Maxime Mermoz , 22 Michael Claassens, 23 Martin Castrogiovanni.
Castres – 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Max Evans, 13 Romain Cabannes, 12 Remi Lamerat, 11 Remy Grosso, 10 Remi Tales, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Yannick Caballero, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Saimone Taumoepeau.
Subs: 16 Mathieu Bonello, 17 Yannick Forestier, 18 Christophe Samson, 19 Jan Bornman, 20 Cedric Garcia, 21 Seremaia Bai, 22 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 23 Mihaita Lazar.
Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images