Stylish 100th for Wilkinson
Jonny Wilkinson (Gallo Images)
Paris - English rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson celebrated his 100th match in
the Top 14 in suitable fashion on Sunday as he kicked all of European champion
Toulon's points as they secured a 15-9 win at relegation-threatened Bayonne.
The 34-year-old landed four penalties and one drop goal to give Toulon only
their second away win in eight away matches this campaign and consolidated
their place in the top six places for the post-season playoffs - they are five
points ahead of seventh placed Toulouse.
For Bayonne defeat - only their second at home this season - leaves them in
a precarious position as while they got a defensive bonus point they are only
four points clear of second from bottom Oyonnax, who have two games in hand.
Bayonne's fellow Basque club Biarritz look doomed despite beating Grenoble
on Saturday as they are 18 points off safety and just seven games to play for
them. Wilkinson - who took his points total in his Top 14 career to 1 367
points - was delighted with the rare win away from home.
"All wins are important but this one is particularly so," said
Wilkinson, who has scored just three tries for Toulon.
"Bayonne are a very strong team and they are capable of beating anyone.
"Obviously I'm happy to win on my 100th appearance but it is more
important for the team.
"It fell on me to score the points because these days in the Top 14 all
the defences are very strong and you have to take the points when they are
Wilkinson's afternoon didn't look as if it would go according to plan to
start with in the first-half against a determined Bayonne side.
The former England international missed with his first penalty attempt but a
subsequent penalty and a trademark drop goal - the 39th in his career for
Toulon - saw the visitors go in at half-time only 9-6 down after the hosts had
opened up a 9-0 lead through three penalties by New Zealand kicker Steven
Toulon had also had to play for 10 minutes of the first-half reduced to 14
men as Argentinean Juan Fernandez-Lobbe - who has only just returned to first
team action after being out for several months with a broken elbow - had been
sin-binned for an infraction.
Wilkinson drew the sides level early in the second-half but then Toulon lost
another player to the sin bin in the 49th minute in South African hooker Craig
Burden but a toothless Bayonne were unable to turn that to their advantage.
Instead it was Toulon who took the lead as Wilkinson - having missed with
what was even ambitious for him a 55 metres penalty - slotted over a penalty to
put them ahead for the first time in the match 12-9 with 12 minutes remaining.
Bayonne's ill-discipline continued to be punished by Wilkinson.
He added another penalty - taking him to second equal on the points scoring
list for the Top 14 this season with 217 points seven off the overall leader
Gaetan Germain - to leave the hosts requiring a converted try to win the game
and just eight minutes remaining.
Bayonne launched a couple of attacks in the dying minutes of the game but
were always pulled up short by a resolute Toulon defence before they dealt
their last card by kicking to touch from a penalty in the final minute.
However, despite winning the resulting lineout Bayonne were unable to break
the Toulon tryline and the visitors held out to secure a vital win.