Rugby

Last gasp Mitchell try saves Toulon

2016-01-17 20:02
Drew Mitchell (Gallo Images)

Paris - Australia wing Drew Mitchell scored a match-winning try after the final buzzer to keep holders Toulon's European Champions Cup defence alive on Sunday.

With time up, Toulon trailed Wasps 11-8 and faced the prospect of needing to win away to Bath next weekend in their final pool match and rely on other results going their way to reach the quarter-finals.

But Mitchell's try, thanks to a perfectly weighted pass from New Zealand legend Ma'a Nonu, gave the reigning three-time champions a crucial 15-11 victory that put them top of Pool 5 above Wasps, who lost for the second time in this year's competition to a try after the buzzer.

Until Mitchell's try, Wasps looked set to join Racing 92, who pounded Welsh side Scarlets 64-14 earlier, Saracens and Leicester in the last eight.

Now Dai Young's side must beat Leinster at home next weekend to go through.

When the two sides met in November, Toulon were unrecognisable and Wasps cruised to a handsome 32-6 thrashing.

It was very different this time around, though, as the European champions dominated the early exchanges.

A desperate last gasp double-tackle from Sailosi Tagicakibau and Joe Simpson prevented Bryan Habana from scoring a certain try in the left corner.

But it was Habana himself who helped create the game's opening try on 12 minutes.

The South Africa wing intercepted the ball inside Toulon's 22 and started a counter-attack that saw Josua Tuisova break down the right wing before passing inside to Quade Cooper to score.

Habana was in the thick of things and it was he who was barged into touch by George Smith after he'd kicked ahead that saw Wasps find themselves down to 14 men as the Australian international flanker was sent to the sin bin.

Eric Escande kicked the resulting penalty but Wasps managed their numerical disadvantage expertly, pushing Toulon back inside their own half before earning a kick of their own in front of the posts, which New Zealander Jimmy Gopperth didn't miss.

What had made the difference in the first half, though, was Wasps' 16 missed tackles to just five from Toulon, who led 8-3.

Toulon replacement fly-haf Frederic Michalak missed a simple-looking kick before the hour mark, after which Gopperth reduced the arrears with his own successful attempt.

Michalak missed another kick before Wasps struck with brutal efficiency.

Elliot Daly brushed off Nonu in midfield and helped set up Guy Thompson to crash over in the corner, breaking through one tackle, handing off a second tackler and resisting the attentions of two further Toulon players to score.

Wasps looked set for a famous win but Toulon demonstrated why they have ruled Europe for the last three years as Mitchell had the last word.

Read more on:    wasps  |  toulon  |  european champions cup  |  rugby
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