European Champions Cup: Toulon 15-11 Wasps

By Mike HensonBBC Sport
Toulon celebrate
Toulon's relief was clear after Mitchell's decisive score
European Champions Cup, Pool Five
Toulon (8) 15
Tries: Cooper, Mitchell, Con: Michalak Pen: Escande
Wasps (3) 11
Try: Thompson Pens: Gopperth 2

Wasps came agonisingly close to a historic win away to Toulon in the European Champions Cup, only for the hosts' Drew Mitchell to cross for a try in the final play of the match.

Guy Thompson had surged over on 70 minutes to give Wasps a 11-8 lead, but their line was breached in injury time.

Victory preserved defending champions Toulon's record of having never lost at home in Europe's premier competition.

It also moved the French side ahead of Wasps in Pool 5 with one game to go.

However Toulon, who are fourth in their domestic Top 14, looked well short of the dominant form that has delivered three successive European crowns.

Pool Five
PlayedWinsPts differencePoints

Wasps - who were without influential forwards Joe Launchbury, James Haskell and Nathan Hughes - remained in a scrappy contest through Jimmy Gopperth's boot despite the hosts' dominance in the scrum and very nearly punished Toulon's lack of focus.

But, stirred into life by Thompson's score, Toulon belatedly injected some urgency into their play and Mitchell picked a superb line off centre Ma'a Nonu's shoulder to pierce a tiring Wasps defence at the death.

Pool Five alive

Wasps may yet have the last laugh on Toulon.

Only pool five's winners are assured a quarter-final place and Wasps, a point behind Toulon, will complete their campaign with a home match against bottom side Leinster while the defending champions play Bath at the Recreation Ground.

Food for thought for Eddie Jones?

Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson failed to make Eddie Jones' first squad with the new England coach opting for Leicester's Ben Youngs and Harlequins' Danny Care as his two number nines.

But his accurate service from the breakdown and potentially try-saving tackles on Bryan Habana and Duane Vermeulen in a superb all-round display made a strong case for an international call-up.

Steffon Armitage was a powerful presence in the loose for Toulon
Steffon Armitage was a powerful presence in the loose for Toulon

Elsewhere, centre Elliot Daly - who could well start the Six Nations opener against Scotland on 6 February - helped set up Thompson's score with a terrific break past Nonu.

Toulon's Steffon Armitage - whose decision to play his club rugby in France has put him out of reach Jones' reach - gave another impressive performance in England's problematic openside slot, rampaging in the loose and a persistent presence at the breakdown.

From pate to foie gras?

Toulon's fly-half Quade Cooper - who only made his debut for the French giants in November - was described as more "pate" than "foie gras"external-link by the club's outspoken owner Mourad Boudjellal earlier in the week after an underwhelming start on the Cote d'Azur.

He showed plenty of commitment to score the game's first try - chasing wing Josua Tuisova's break to take a simple scoring pass - but the stardust that he has been hired to dispense was still in short supply.

A snatched drop-goal attempt followed by a duff grubber kick early in the second half had the Stade Felix Mayol grumbling, and the Wallaby was replaced by Frederic Michalak soon after.

Toulon: Mitchell, Tuiosva, Bastareaud, Nonu, Habana, Cooper, Escande, Fresia, Guirado, Chilachava, Suta, Mikautadze, J. Smith, S. Armitage, Vermeulen.

Replacements: Mermoz for Bastareaud (71), Michalak for Cooper (50), Tillous-Borde for Escande (50), Chiocci for Fresia (49), Etrillard for Guirado (49), Saulo for Chilachava (49), Lassale for Mikautadze (50), Gorgodze for J. Smith (71).

Wasps: Piutau, Tagicakibau, Daly, Jacobs, Halai, Gopperth, Simpson, Mullan, Shervington, Cittadini, Davies, Gaskell, Jones, G. Smith, Thompson.

Replacements: Jackson for Daly (74), Miller for Jacobs (37), McIntyre for Mullan (63), Johnson for Shervington (56), Swainston for Cittadini (69), Myall for Gaskell (63), Young for Thompson (71).

Not Used: Robson.

Sin Bin: G. Smith (21).

Att: 13,344

Ref: Nigel Owens (Wales).

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