The Heineken Cup Semi Final between Saracens and Toulon wasn’t much of a spectacle, but there was one moment in particular that stood out, as Jonny Wilkinson snapped a well taken drop-goal to cap off a record breaking performance.
Toulon won 24-12 at Twickenham, booking their place in the final of the tournament, where they will meet the highly formiddable Clermont, who themselves beat Munster on Saturday.
Wilkinson was a clear winner in the battle of the boot, as he kicked seven penalties and an excellent dropgoal to get the better of young Owen Farrell. The England veteran may have played his way into the British & Irish Lions squad, while Farrell possibly played his way out of it.
The man himself played down speculation that he may make the tour, but those who have watched him over the last few weeks can see a man who has marshalled a team of stars to the top of the French Top 14, and now, a European Cup Final.
He has scored 45 points in the two knock-out games, kicking six penalties and a drop goal to defeat Leicester Tigers in the quarter final, and now this semi final record points haul of 24.
The pressure is now on coach Warren Gatland, who announces his squad tomorrow (Tuesday), as fans, pundits, and players all offered their opinions yesterday following the superb all round game by the 33 year-old world cup winner.
Reaction to Wilkinson’s performance
“In my opinion the three 10’s would be Sexton, Farrell & Wilkinson.” – Dan Carter
“He is masterclass. If I was an Australian, I would say don’t take Wilko for the Lions!” – John Smit
“As an Australian, it’s good to be on Wilko’s side for once when he scores a drop-goal. Many times Jonny’s finished my World Cup hopes so I want to hate the guy – I’ve said this many times – but he’s a great guy and great for the team.” – Matt Giteau.
“In terms of Lions tours, they are all about the here and now. If Gatland is looking for a kicking 10 then it is pretty hard to argue against taking him. He’s the best right now. In both the quarter-final and semi-final he has defined the game.” – Dean Ryan
“If you need to play a game where accumulation of points is based on powerful and direct running of athletic and large players, is there a better No. 10 available? When Gatland announces his Lions tour party tomorrow it will be a mistake not to have Wilkinson in it.” – Brian Moore
Below is the drop goal he kicked under pressure from Farrell, as well as the praise heaped on him by commentator Stuart Barnes. You can also view a short excerpt from his post match interview, and find out what he said to Farrell as they watched the ball sail through for another three points.
Below is a short piece from what was a fascinating interview with Man of the Match Wilkinson after the game. Here he is talking about the final, but when asked about the Lions, he was as humble as ever.
“The Lions is difficult for me because it’s not at all that I wouldn’t consider it, it would be fabulous,” he told Sky Sports. “It’s up there with the most amazing experiences you can get in rugby.
“But I watch guys like Owen Farrell, Toby Flood, Dan Biggar and Jonathan Sexton and it is them who are driving rugby forward. Perhaps they should be the ones driving this tour forward as well.
“I’m digging my fingernails in and hanging on really and watching these guys is what it’s all about.
When asked what he said to Farrell on the floor, he explained: “I said, ‘Listen mate, that’s a bit lucky. I apologise for that one.‘ He smashed me as well.”