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?