Heineken Cup round-up: Toulon get over the line in Exeter

Clermont and Saracens also record wins in early European kick-offs

The  Exeter players show their disappointment at the final whistle after the 14-9 defeat at Sandy Park. Photograph:  Michael Steele/Getty Images

The Exeter players show their disappointment at the final whistle after the 14-9 defeat at Sandy Park. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

 

Outhalf Johnny Wilkinson, who had already missed 11 points, landed a 30-metre drop goal five minutes from time as holders Toulon moved to the top of Heineken Cup Pool Two with a 14-9 win over Exeter. However, the game was costly for the French side, who lost Bakkies Botha (cut head), fellow Springbok Bryan Habana (hamstring) and Craig Burden (arm) to injury in the first half.

Gareth Steenson landed the opening penalty for Exeter but Toulon, victorious just once on the road all season, hit back immediately as hooker Craig Burden made the important break before lock Ali Williams offloaded to loosehead prop Florian Fresia, who bulldozed his way over.

Wilkinson was unable to convert from wide on the right but, when flanker Ben White was penalised for not releasing, the former World Cup winner found his target five minutes later from the left.

Steenson, who took a heavy tackle from Mathieu Bastareaud early on, reduced the arrears just before the midway point of the first half before being replaced by Henry Slade.

Five minutes before the break Slade nudged the Chiefs into the lead with a penalty from out wide after the visitors were penalised for a crooked feed at a scrum.

Wilkinson attempted a long-range penalty from just inside his own half, with the wind at his back, which fell well short - and a minute later he again failed to find the target. Just before the hour mark Wilkinson was short with a 50-metre penalty attempt from the opposite side of the pitch to the previous two, then fullback Luke Arscott had to race back to stop wing Alexis Palisson claiming a touchdown.

Wilkinson was stopped just short of the line before Toulon worked the ball wide through centre Matt Giteau and full-back Drew Mitchell to replacement wing Rudi Wulf - who reached for the line but was adjudged by the TMO to have had a foot in touch. Despite the capacity crowd at Sandy Park chanting ‘we want Jonny’ Wilkinson handed over the kicking duties to Giteau, whose three points put Toulon back in front to set up a tense final 15 minutes.

Wilkinson found the mark with his late drop-goal and although the hosts battled on they could not find any more points - paying the price in the closing stages when they gave away another penalty when 15 metres from the line.

Elsewhere, Saracens moved to the top of Pool Three with a 39-10 victory at winless Zebre. Toulouse play host to Connacht in the same pool tomorrow afternoon.

And Clermont extended their remarkable home record against the Llanellli Scarlets, last year’s runners-up running out comfortable 32-11 winners.

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