Wilko kicks Toulon into final

by Setanta Staff , 28 April 2012

Jonny Wilkinson was a relieved man as his last-minute drop goal against Stade Francais gave Toulon a European Challenge Cup final spot.

The 32-year-old drilled a long-range effort through the uprights to earn his side a thrilling 32-29 victory over the capital club and book a spot in the final of Europe's second-tier competition against either Brive or Biarritz at the Stoop on May 18.

The former England fly-half put on a superb display of kicking and ended up with 27 points, with seven penalties and two drop goals at the Stade Mayol.

In a game dominated by kicking due to the windy conditions, it was the hosts who scored the first try of the game when flanker Steffon Armitage barged over after just five minutes.

But poor tackling by the hosts let Morgan Turinui through to set up full-back Hugo Bonneval for a converted score in the 12th minute as Stade edged ahead.

The visitors led 19-11 at the break but lost their discipline in the second period, conceding a number of penalties which Wilkinson took full advantage of to open up a 23-19 lead.

But the game continued to ebb and flow as Italian skipper Sergio Parisse's one-handed reverse pass set up Turinui for Stade's second try, which was converted by Jules Plisson, and the Parisians were 26-23 ahead.

Two penalties by the 2003 World Cup-winning fly-half gave Toulon a narrow lead but Plisson landed a drop goal of his own to pull his side level at 29-29.

Stade winger Julien Arias was then sin-binned with 10 minutes to go and the home side dominated possession, with Wilkinson missing three penalty attempts to win the match before finally landing the killer blow as time ran out.

And the record-breaking number 10 confessed that he would have struggled to face his team-mates after the game had he failed with the drop-goal attempt.

"It was tricky with the wind out there at times and had I scored one or two of the other kicks I had, we could have had a one or two score lead," he told reporters.

"I thought if I missed that drop goal, I might not go back in the dressing room as the lads had worked so hard to give me the opportunity."

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