Sexton does little wrong but Wilkinson and Toulon dominate
Fans get behind home team as English outhalf takes the plaudits with 16-point haul
Toulon’s outhalf Jonny Wilkinson is challenged by Metro Racing’s Irish fly-half Jonathan Sexton of Racing Metro at the Mayol stadium. Photograph: Getty.
Toulon 41 Racing Metro 14: Jonathan Sexton did little wrong in Toulon last night but his star-studded Racing Metro side was blown away in the battle of the French heavyweights. In the process Jonny Wilkinson produced a class performance to win the first battle of the most expensive outhalves in world rugby hands down.
Sexton landed all three of his penalties but Racing Metro were nearly always on the backfoot in a heated contest which saw the crowd gather outside the port venue three hours before kick-off and which ended with several dust-ups in the closing minutes when Toulon were coasting to victory. Both sides finished with 14 men when Martin Castrogiavanni and Toulon’s Eddy Ben Arous were red-carded in a flare-up involing a host of players.
Wilkinson set the bar for what Sexton needs to achieve when he produced a man-of-the-match display which yielded a flawless 16 points with the boot — five conversions, a penalty and a drop goal — as well as a series of sublime touches in open play as he made the most of a dominant pack.
Conditions were ideal for the clash of the heavyweights at Stade Mayol with a light breeze coming in from the Mediterranean on a warm night.
The atmosphere created by the full house of home supporters ensured a hostile welcome for Jonathan Sexton and his teammates and the outhalf could have done without a delay of several minutes at the start as he waited to kick off while referee Romain Poite — no stranger to Munster and Irish fans — had his audio equipment sorted.
It didn’t take long for the home fans to taunt Sexton when an audacious drop goal from 40 metres out on the right wing, after just half a minute, missed the target.
Both Sexton and Wilkinson attracted plenty of attention from the opposing backrows, while the Irishman also had the crowd to contend with and they gave it full voice when he sent a crossfield kick directly to touch after three minutes.
The Racing Metro scrum was in some degree of difficulty from the outset and the visitors struggled to win clean possession off their own ball. Inevitably, Wilkinson was involved in the opening try and the capacity home crowd of over 14,500 were on their feet when he helped Maxime Mermoz and Matt Giteau combine to send Kiwi winger David Smith over under the posts after eight minutes.
Wilkinson added the easy conversion but Racing Metro hit back immediately and Sexton, taking the maximum time to compose himself, displayed nerves of steel to steer a 25 metre penalty from just to the left between the posts despite all the heckling.
Racing were denied a try after 18 minutes when the television match official, after taking an age to make his decision, ruled that Adrien Plante’s pass to his number eight Masinivanu Matadigo was forward and with Sexton preparing to slot the conversion, a scrum was awarded which Racing Metro lost.