European Rugby Champions Cup: Toulon 32-18 Wasps

By James StandleyBBC Sport
Wasps flanker Ashley Johnson takes on three Toulon defenders
Wasps came alive in the second half by Toulon's class told in the end on Sunday
Toulon (22) 32
Tries: Bastareaud, Williams Con: Michalak 2 Pens: Michalak 6
Wasps (6) 18
Tries: Helu 2 Con: Goode Pens: Lozowski 2

Wasps were duly knocked out of the Champions Cup by reigning European champions Toulon, but not before a stirring second-half fightback.

A Mathieu Bastareaud try and six successful kicks from Frederic Michalak gave the hosts a 22-6 half-time lead.

Wasps rallied and two tries from Will Helu closed the gap to seven points with 10 minutes remaining in France.

But Toulon steadied themselves and Ali Williams' converted try ensured they will face Leinster in the last four.

Defeat for Wasps means Saracens, 12-11 winners at Racing Metro earlier in the day, are England's last survivors in the competition.

Cashed-up Toulon have been the dominant force in Europe for the past couple of years and when they rampaged into a big lead by the break it looked as though Wasps were in for a humiliation.

European Champions Cup semi-final line-up
Clermont Auvergne v Saracens (Saturday 18 April, 1515 BST)
Toulon v Leinster (Sunday 19 April, 1515 BST)

But the English side have been revitalised since moving to their new Ricoh Arena home in Coventry at the end of last year and rather than wither under the assault from the champions' star-studded line-up, they were the better side after the restart before Williams' final flourish finally calmed the nerves of the passionate home fans.

Toulon started in a fashion befitting their champion status, with 18-stone France centre Bastareaud soon bulldozing his way over under the sticks.

The gifted Michalak has become known as much for his erratic performances as his undoubted talent, but he was virtually flawless under the Mediterranean sun and his conversion was the first of six unerring kicks in the opening 40 minutes.

Alex Lozowski slotted a couple of penalties for Wasps, but with the abundant pace, power and skill of the hosts all too apparent, the English side were struggling to compete.

Toulon v Wasps
Will Helu (second left) scored a brace of tries to get Wasps back into the match

However, come the second half the momentum changed almost completely.

Suddenly it was the likes of Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson and centre Elliot Daly looking threatening every time they had the ball, and two tries from Tonga wing Helu in the right-hand corner prompted thoughts of an unlikely Wasps fightback.

They got themselves to within a converted score but Toulon have not been champions of Europe twice in a row for no reason and they closed things out through former All Black Williams to once again reach the last four.

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young: "Obviously I'm really pleased with the commitment and attitude we showed as well as the never-say-die spirit. But we gave them too much respect in the first half and made too many errors.

"Although we are disappointed with the result today, two seasons ago we were fighting relegation. We will learn a lot from today. We have mixed it with the best team in Europe."

Toulon captain Carl Hayman: "It wasn't what we demand of ourselves to be honest. But we got through, and that's what counts.

"We're just happy to come away with a win. Any way you can get over the line in this championship, you take it."

Toulon: D Armitage; Tuisova, Bastareaud, Mermoz, Mitchell; Michalak, Tillous-Borde; Menini, Guirado, Hayman, Botha, Williams, Gordodze, S Armitage, Masoe.

Replacements: Giteau for Mermoz (54), Chiocci for Menini (65), Orioli for Guirado (66), Suta for Botha (69), Fernandez Lobbe for Gordodze (65).

Not Used: Chilachava, Wulf, Claassens.

Wasps: Miller; Helu, Daly, Masi, Varndell; Lozowski, Simpson; Mullan, Shervington, Cittadini, B Davies, Myall, Johnson, Haskell, Thompson.

Replacements: C Davies for Masi (66), Goode for Lozowski (44), McIntyre for Mullan (69), Festuccia for Shervington (51), Cooper-Woolley for Cittadini (51), Young for Thompson (69).

Not Used: Gaskell, Leiua.

Att: 15,500

Ref: George Clancy (Ireland)

Toulon v Wasps
Delon Armitage came close to scoring for Toulon after a superb break was held up over the line
Toulon v Wasps
Wasps clawed their way back to within seven points of Toulon after trailing 22-6 at the interval
Toulon v Wasps
But former All Black Ali Williams' late try for Toulon put the tie beyond the reach of the English visitors

Top Stories