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Sunday May 3, 2015

Toulon claim unprecedented treble of European Cup titles with victory over Clermont

Toulon claim unprecedented treble of European Cup titles with victory over Clermont
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Toulon came from behind to beat Clermont 24-18 and claim a first ever hat-trick of European Cup titles, showing yet again that they have the edge in big games. Clermont’s Nick Abendanon scored a sublime try, only to be matched by Drew Mitchell not long after.

Clermont started the better of the two sides and looked as though they could be on track for the long awaited silverware, in this the first year of the new format European Rugby Champions Cup. They led 11-3 at one stage but Toulon pulled things back, and landed a killer blow just before the break through midfield tank, Mathieu Bastareaud.

The second half was thoroughly entertaining, and when Toulon got a turnover and knockon advantage in their own 22m, Bryan Habana attempted to hack the ball down field, only to have it land in the arms of dangerous fullback Abendanon.

What followed was a sumptious chip over the defence for a truly memorable try.

Game on. But just as Abendanon had raised the standards, Australia winger Mitchell hit the line at a lovely angle and proceeded to carve up the hapless Clermont defence, as he slalommed through no less than 6 would be tacklers.

He said post match that the camaraderie of the squad is what carried them through. “We’ve been questioned a lot lately as a squad.. where we’ve been, how we’ve come together, and what we’ve played for,” said tryscorer Micthell. 

“But we know internally that we’re a pretty driven side out there. We were certainly pushed by Clermont there, they’re a fantastic side, right to the end again, the same as a couple of years ago. They could have snatched it at the end there. It’s good for us to know that we’ve got that belief and that respect and that trust in one another.”

The victory is another milestone for the likes of Bakkies Botha, Carl Hayman and Ali Williams, who are all retiring at the end of the season. Their winning titles is just too extensive to list.

“I think they can do it again next year: we’re seeing the club’s recruited very well for next season,” said Hayman. “There are three or four older fellas moving on, but they are being replaced well.”

In a funny moment post match, Bryan Habana joked that the only positive to come from his dire kick ahead is that he may have helped Nick Abendanon make it into the England squad.

What were your highlights of the match, and with a hat-trick of titles and more top players arriving soon, including Ma’a Nonu, Quade Cooper and Samu Manoa, can Toulon be stopped?

36 Comments

  • drg
    1:33 PM 06/05/2015

    I don't want to dot around the comment board by replying to specific points you've made here and there, however you made a comment about people not being pleased that two French teams were in the final? Honestly it doesn't bother me one bit, someone has to win it, someone has to come second, third etc.. A lot of the comments around here are not in anyway against 'French people' or the French international team, I think that actually it's a very important topic regardless of which nation we're referring to. Take Ireland for instance, they've got 4 (?) big teams that rule the limelight, the majority of players in those teams are Irish. Two ways of looking at this, the positive is that players learn to gel, 9 and 10's know about each other etc, the negative with this is that perhaps old habits are never broken, until players go off to France, or the SH, they may still remain in the dogged old style of playing. I agree that 3 year rule is ridiculous. I'm not saying all the above because I want the French club teams to lose in future because they don't have the foreign superstars, or because I want the French to suffer because a big kiwi etc has decided to live and play in France and is suddenly eligible for the International side. The reasons for my comments are because I'm seeing a French international side get strangled by many different hands and I think that keeping a sort of lid on the whole thing, so it doesn't explode beyond what it has already reached might be the better option. Toulon has won again, that means instant access to cash, more sponsorships, higher demands, higher fees etc etc, who do they sign next year? When does it stop? Will you be happy if they become 'The Toulon Barbarians'? Except a year round team, not just a turn up on the day team?

    Reply
  • oliver
    1:15 PM 06/05/2015

    Jimmy to an extent I agree with you, but again, it's a pro sport now! of course the money has a bigger effect than it used to. too late to turn back. as for football, I barely watch it too, but it's the biggest sport in France so I can't help it sometimes. and I guarantee you World Cups and Euro Cups still have much more importance than club games!

    Reply
  • jimmy23
    11:46 AM 06/05/2015

    As I have said before Oliver, I don't despise Toulon like a lot people do. I respect what they have done in building a team and a culture that works, even if the money has made sure they have a talented, highly experienced player in each position. The problem is this, one/two clubs doing it is fine and I agree that it is perhaps the management/coaching that has caused a lot of the decline of the French national side rather than a couple of clubs with a lot of international players. What I'm worried about is that soon ALL the teams, whether it be French, English, Irish etc... will start to follow suit and if that happens I don't think you can deny that that will start to have an affect on the counties International sides. Then it will become a case where the money has a bigger effect than it used to. One of the things I have always loved about Rugby is that the International game is clearly a step up in standard and is prestigious in that way. It is a special occasion when England plays France or when New Zealand plays South Africa. Whereas in Football a team like Real Madrid or Chelsea could very easily match up with any international side. Bar the World Cup, it feels as though the international game isn't held as in high regard. Perhaps I'm wrong there as I barely watch football but to me it seems as though there is far more hype around the club games than the international ones. It would be a tremendous shame if that happened in Rugby. Not saying it definitely will but I don't think it's unreasonable to be worried that it might.

    Reply
  • oliver
    8:29 AM 06/05/2015

    as I said it's not simple. growing pains for a spot that was strictly amateur when I grew up playing and watching it. so yes, there has to be a limit to the number of foreign players in a club squad. But honestly that does not bother me as much as the rule that makes it possible for players to be eligible for the French squad simply after playing 3 years in France. Plain ridiculous (and it's not a French rule, it's from the international rugby board)

    Reply
  • oliver
    8:17 AM 06/05/2015

    don't generalize. Toulon's strategy is not that of all French clubs. Anyways, Gael Fickou grew up near Toulon. He could not get a spot in the Toulon squad, guess what happened? he signed with Toulouse and now has started an international career. it did not stop him. You know after the semi-finals were over, my dad told me Brits would be pissed to see 2 French clubs in the final. well.......he was not wrong I think?

    Reply
  • drg
    10:21 PM 05/05/2015

    Oliver perhaps you've sort of put a good point across against your own argument. "England team never had good results" - not a football fan so I will take your word on this... English clubs are however flush with cash and foreign players... Has Englands football got any better? As much as I avoid football news, it's impossible to block it all, in a word I'd say no.. So whilst that may just be due to the fact that England were and always will be poor at football (I might be off in that statement), the influx of 'foreign' players surely can't help the matter... I don't know Frances top 3 clubs, lets say Stade Francais (what an awesome kit), Clermont and Toulon - As I said above, what if they turned round and hired all the international All Blacks, the Saffas and the Aussies? (or whoever we feel is 1,2,3 these days) to fill up their spaces... Would you personally be passionate about watching a 'French' team with no Frenchman in it? Could you possibly see that those teams will get all the sponsorship, all the attention, and possibly all the glory.. what will happen to the 'lesser' teams? I would agree that there is not one single answer/solution to Frances international woes. Certainly PSA has a lot to answer for, in fact all the French management over the last few years have. I don't necessarily believe that Toulon and their chequebook is a problem currently, but I can see why it could be a problem as time goes on and other teams feel they need to follow suit in order to compete...

    Reply
  • ronan
    8:58 PM 05/05/2015

    Ye but oliver toulon have 18 superstar foreign players in the squad, thats pushed 18 french players out. I know soccer is ruined by money, I dont watch soccer or give a shit about it. I do love rugby and i dont like the way the french clubs are going with it...

    Reply
  • oliver
    4:00 PM 05/05/2015

    It's really not that simple IMO. To keep up the football-as-sign-of-things-to-come theory, you can also look at it this way: - now how can I say this in a diplomatic manner? ahem ahem the England team never had good results....before or after money came in. - Spain had very good results in recent years, and the Spanish league is super flush with money. So to me the "clubs prosper while the national side suffers" theory just doesn't hold. The main problem for the French squad IMO is that the federation basically has not changed since the days of amateurism. Well that and St Andre of course....

    Reply
  • drg
    3:37 PM 05/05/2015

    I'm with Dan. There are no sour grapes as honestly, I'm not bothered who won out of Clermont or Toulon. Of course money alone is not the key to Toulons' success (it helped I'm sure), however in the long term it would be a shame to see consistently top Toulon field a team of say 14 'foreign' players and 1 Frenchman... For instance, would everyone be quite so happy if Toulon became the All Blacks out of international games team? Rather than opening up the 'who is the best' debate, I'm pretty sure pinching their black jerseys and sticking them in a Toulon shirt wouldn't make them a weaker side and how passionate would the fans be then? You don't want the spots in the top teams filling up with foreign players so that the lesser teams are continually beaten and get weaker and weaker, therefore unable to train home bred youngsters properly.

    Reply
  • danknapp
    12:46 PM 05/05/2015

    I hope that the money in the French premiership doesn't have the negative effect on the national game that it did on English football. There are no less starting positions available for talented French youngsters. I wasn't old enough to watch money change football, so I can't directly compare it, but my gut feeling is that spending lots of money on foreign players will make it harder to for the 'not so great' indigenous youngsters to get into these squads, therefore having a negative effect on long term player development. Attention might turn away from developing young players into attracting foreign superstars. Toulon are clearly a great club with a real love of their sport, but so are Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United... and how many of the 'domestic' players in those squads would realistically get into a World XI? Probably none. Rugby needs to ensure that the money in the game finds its way into academies and training facilities lower down in the system. Only this way can French, and to a lesser extent English, money have a decent longterm affect on the game.

    Reply
  • drg
    8:39 AM 05/05/2015

    Can Mitchell play 15? Agree with your back 3, I just don't know who would be better off where...

    Reply
  • drg
    8:38 AM 05/05/2015

    It's alright Matt, by the way though, what is a 15 month old year old? ;)

    Reply
  • oliver
    8:32 AM 05/05/2015

    Come to Stade Mayol in Toulon! and (maybe) you'll understand. I'm not a Toulon supporter but I go there every year, cause I have family in the area, and the city's passion for rugby is palpable. Honestly people complaining about cheque book tactics is just ridiculous and hypocritical. It's a professionnal sport now right? of course it's money-driven.

    Reply
  • stroudos
    6:27 AM 05/05/2015

    Of course the money is important, but it only goes so far. Anyone looking for Toulon's magic ingredient for success should look at the passion of their supporters, not at the size of Boujellal's chequebook. I saw Toulon v London Irish at the Madejski a few years ago - Wilkinson was playing for them, but I don't remember many other real big-name players being there. Quite a few Toulon fans had come over and the atmosphere they created was phenomenal. Brought a real passion for the game and most were shouting very constructive comments that showed insight and understanding of the game. The energy and exuberance was palpable and that's at an away game.

    Reply
  • 1:31 AM 05/05/2015

    Nathalie's holding onto it

    Reply
  • 1:30 AM 05/05/2015

    Doesn't she read this comment blog? How embarrassing!

    Reply
  • drg
    6:23 PM 04/05/2015

    I believe it's held by one of the big 3 SH teams following last year's Autumn internationals...

    Reply
  • drg
    6:21 PM 04/05/2015

    hah!!

    Reply
  • drg
    6:17 PM 04/05/2015

    I don't think the amount of French players explains anything in particular, it just interests me that's all... Playing with better players around you does improve an individuals standard in my opinion, so maybe Toulon does have an increasing brunt due to the celebrity appearances... Either way, I'm glad for Toulon, but I would definitely like to see France play better than their past efforts and thus reflect it in their club teams... But I suspect that their international performances are more down to their management (or lack of) rather than their club inputs...

    Reply
  • ronan
    5:24 PM 04/05/2015

    EXCELLENT, and where can i collect my prize??

    Reply
  • oliver
    5:04 PM 04/05/2015

    Congrats Ronan, you just won the sour grapes award!

    Reply
  • ronan
    12:49 PM 04/05/2015

    Sorry lads, cant respect a team that goes around the world with a blank cheque book poaching any players they can to fill their team 1-15.. and 16,17,18,19......... Does nothing for young home grown players and i hope this reflects in the wc for france.

    Reply
  • dancarter
    12:26 PM 04/05/2015

    I'm hoping to see a back 3 of Folau, Mitchell and the honey badger.

    Reply
  • katman
    10:29 AM 04/05/2015

    I don't think Nathalie is going to get back to you here. :)

    Reply
  • 3:37 AM 04/05/2015

    I respect Toulon and the club ethos they've built on top of their gargantuan budget. That said, I don't like them. I sorta like lobbe but otherwise I'm not a big fan of any I there players over the years, wilko aside. Abendanon has to be in the English team. I'm sure if he was an England Hi got your name from Nathalie. Wondering if u have space for a part time 15 month year old in September? Cheers Mattregular he wouldn't have left. Foolish to ignore him now. Name a better performing 15 in England or Europe for that matter.

    Reply
  • colombes
    9:44 PM 03/05/2015

    Money helps, agree But does it build a team spirit and success? absolutely not. Take the Racing. They spent more money than any others clubs since 3 years and their results aren't so extraordinary. The force of Toulon is their president: Boudjellal who have achieved to revive the club identity and communicate a winning spirit... to guys like who have won everything.

    Reply
  • colombes
    9:40 PM 03/05/2015

    I clearly don't refer to people over here. Which team had more french players? Clermont. Does it explain their defeat...? The experience of Toulon was just the difference. I haven't any particular sympathy towards the Toulon of Boudjellal, but i'm always annoyed when i read that Toulon kills rugby valors, the french selection or the european cup interest.

    Reply
  • drg
    9:20 PM 03/05/2015

    I can't see them on here, so I assume you're not referring to RD when you write: "On a side note, pretty amused by the usual ignorant comments"... It's not really a side note, but I don't mean it to be connected in a negative way, but which team had more French players?

    Reply
  • drg
    9:18 PM 03/05/2015

    Very interesting comment. We often get very worked up and excited when the RWC comes along... but really what for? I mean, yeh we get to see 'my team beat your team' (or vice versa), but in reality the rugby is generally pretty crap, the only reason it's ever classed as edge of seat rugby is because the loser hops on a plane back home rather than getting to play anymore... other than that, it produces some of the least inspirational plays I've ever seen.. - in comparison to the generally more care free club stuff..

    Reply
  • i_bleed_green_and_gold
    5:12 PM 03/05/2015

    Bringing in the likes of cooper may be the best thing for his career.

    Reply
  • katman
    4:57 PM 03/05/2015

    Would be interesting to see Toulon's average age vs some of the other European teams. Plenty of senior citizens there to push it up.

    Reply
  • i_bleed_green_and_gold
    4:12 PM 03/05/2015

    It may be a team of ex international stars but most of them are past their prime. Juan smith was retired 2 years ago. Bakkies, Ali. And wilko, in previous years. It just seems that the club can bring out the best in these players. They just get to play rugby. Large roster so they can rest, don't worry about money or national selection. They get to have fun. And they are naturally competitive and talented so the winning comes from a great environment.

    Reply
  • jimmy23
    4:10 PM 03/05/2015

    I'm not one of these people who are going to say "Toulon bought their way to the top". At the end of the day you need a team to gel together in order to work and there is a huge amount of graft from both the coaches and players in order for that to happen. Toulon have clearly worked hard no building their team, no doubt about it. However, you can't deny that their chequebook has allowed them to make sure that every player in every position is of international standard or there abouts. It does help when you have talent and experience in every position. To say they bought their titles is ignorant, but to say the money hasn't helped them in anyway is as well.

    Reply
  • demosys
    12:37 PM 03/05/2015

    A pretty nice final. I expected a lot worse. Conclusion of this game: Huuuuuuuge lack of power for Clermont which led to too many missed tackles (78% of tackling success). Combined with stupid mistakes and Toulon's surgical efficiency, they couldn't win this game ..... again.

    Reply
  • drg
    12:04 PM 03/05/2015

    Well, lets hope France can produce some inspiring rugby as a nation in the World cup.

    Reply
  • jimmy23
    10:57 AM 03/05/2015

    Before the inevitable conversation regarding the wallet of Toulon comes into the foray, i'll just say that Drew Mitchell's try was pretty damn awesome and considering Australia's new selection policy I wouldn't be surprised if we saw him in the World Cup. Okay go!!

    Reply


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