Cardiff - Jonny Wilkinson's final match in Britain ended in joy for the England
great as reigning champions Toulon beat Saracens 23-6 in the European
Cup final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
captain Wilkinson 13 points in a match where the star-studded French
side scored tries through Australia's Matt Giteau and South Africa's
All Saracens had to show for their efforts were two
penalties from Owen Farrell, Wilkinson's current successor as England
Victory meant Toulon, who edged out French rivals
Clermont 16-15 in last season's final, became only the third team after
England's Leicester and Irish province Leinster to retain the European
This win also kept Toulon on course for a 'double' ahead of next weekend's French Top 14 final with Castres.
That match is now set to be Wilkinson's last after he announced his retirement earlier this week.
"It's a hell of a feeling," said Wilkinson, for whom this win marked an early birthday present - he turns 35 on Sunday.
"I am proud to be part of this team and be part of this. The season has one more week to go, I will take this with me forever."
Saracens also have a shot at domestic glory as next Saturday sees them playing Northampton in the English Premiership final.
the closed roof of the Millennium Stadium, Toulon once more looked to
get the better of Saracens following their 24-12 semi-final win over the
London club last season -- a match where Wilkinson kicked all his
For Saracens captain Steve Borthwick, like Wilkinson, this was set to be his penultimate match before retirement.The
London club appearing in their first European final of any kind, took a
second-minute lead when Toulon's former All Blacks prop Carl Heyman was
penalised for popping up at a scrum.
Farrell kicked the penalty and Saracens led 3-0.
Argentina centre Marcelo Bosch, Saracens' long-range kick specialist and Farrell both saw 45 metre penalty efforts fall short.
with Toulon down to 14 men after Lobbe was sent to the sin-bin for
tackling airborne Saracens-lock Alistair Hargreaves, they revitalised a
stuttering match with their first try.
In the build-up to this
match Saracens coach Mark McCall had highlighted Giteau as a dangerman
and he was proved right in the 29th minute.
play with an inside pass to Giteau, whose clever chip kick into space
saw Drew Mitchell beat Saracens full-back Alex Goode to the high
Former Wallaby wing Mitchell then passed out of the
tackle to the supporting Giteau, who'd followed up his own kick, and
the centre raced in for a try.
Wilkinson made light of a difficult conversion from out near the touchline to give Toulon a 7-3 lead.
that became 10-3 when, two minutes before half-time, a huge drive by
the powerful Toulon pack from a lineout saw Wilkinson land a drop-goal
off his weaker, right foot -- just as he'd done to seal England's 2003
World Cup final win over Australia in Sydney.
Seven points down at
the break, Saracens needed to score first in the second half and did so
when Farrell landed a routine penalty after Toulon collapsed a scrum.
However, Wilkinson then kicked a penalty after flanker and man-of-the-match Steffon Armitage had got over the ball at a tackle.
Toulon then sealed victory with a match-clinching try on the hour.
centre Mathieu Bastareaud started the move with an outside break before
passing to Smith, who took the ball brilliantly one-handed behind him.
Former Springbok Smith exchanged passes with Lobbe in a neat one-two before crossing for a fine try.
duly converted to make it 20-6 and that soon became 23-6 when, after
Farrell's late hit on Springbok wing Bryan Habana, he landed a 40-metre
There was no way back for Saracens and a crowd of nearly
68,000 cheered Wilkinson to the echo when Toulon coach Bernard Laporte,
the former France boss, replaced him late on with Maxime Mermoz.