Toulon too good for Munster

Toulon scrapped their way to a European Cup final clash with Saracens after beating Munster 24-16 on Sunday.

The contrast in styles of this ragged, fragmented affair to the overwhelming display of power by Saracens on Saturday could not have been more stark. They will undoubtedly take the time before the final on 24 May in Cardiff to reflect and reassess their game plan. Jonny Wilkinson ended with 21 points, against a try and a lot of wasted chances by Munster.

The first half was arm-wrestle, with Munster on the back foot most of the time. But scrum problems and over-exuberance at the ruck by both teams led to an exchange of penalties, punctuated by a mighty drop goal from Wilkinson. Munster's best chance ended in a ruck 10m from the Toulon line at which Toulon flank Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe came charging through, kneeing Munster scrumhalf Conor Murray and earning himself a yellow card. But Toulon hardly noticed his absence, and ended the half with another three penalties, including a 55m effort from Delon Armitage to lead 18-9.

Toulon came out flying, and twice came close thanks to scything breaks by Bok wing Bryan Habana. One ended with a great tackle on Steffon Armitage on the line, the other by a knock-on from Danie Rossouw. But Munster then hit back by taking a penalty to a lineout and from the maul, Ireland wing Simon Zebo scored in the corner. But a moment of madness by Keith Earles, tackling winger David Smith without the ball, enabled Wilkinson to push the gap to five points.

If there was a turning point in this frenetic battle, it was when Munster opted for another lineout from a penalty and the ball was cleared by Toulon from loose play. Thereafter Munster were on the back foot and even though they charged down a drop-goal attempt by Wilkinson, they were always defending. A penalty with 90 seconds to go sealed their fate.

Toulon – Penalties: Jonny Wilkinson (6), Delon Armitage. Drop goal: Wilkinson.
Munster – Try: Simon Zebo. Conversion: Ian Keatley. Penalties: Keatley (3).

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 Danie Rossouw, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Xavier Chiocci.
Subs: 16 Jean Charles Orioli, 17 Alexander Menini, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Virgile Bruni, 20 David Smith, 21 Maxime Mermoz, 22 Michael Claassens, 23 Konstantin Mikautadze.

Munster – 15 Felix Jones,14 Keith Earls, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Dave Foley, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Subs: 16  Duncan Casey, 17 James Cronin, 18 John Ryan, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Denis Hurley.

Saracens smash into Euro final

Photo: Boris Horvat/AFP Photo