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Exeter Chiefs 9-14 Toulon
Toulon give valiant Chiefs the chop
ESPN Staff
December 7, 2013
Report Match details
Date/Time: Dec 7, 2013, 13:35 local, 13:35 GMT
Venue: Sandy Park
Exeter Chiefs 9 - 14 Toulon
Half-time: 9 - 8
Pens: Slade, Steenson 2
Tries: Fresia
Pens: Giteau, Wilkinson
Drops: Wilkinson
Toulon's Matt Giteau gets stopped in his tracks at Sandy Park, Exeter Chiefs v Toulon, Heineken Cup, Sandy Park, Exeter, December 7, 2013
Toulon's Matt Giteau carries forward against Exeter
© Getty Images
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Match Analysis

  • Man of the Match: Mathieu Bastareaud was named man of the match as he brought a game packed with power and little else to give Toulon essential go-forward.
  • Key moment: Jonny Wilkinson's late drop-goal killed off the Exeter fightback.
  • Hero: Jack Nowell put in a fantastic performance on the flank for Exeter. He is showing Test-standard quality.
  • Villain: Even though he kicked the drop-goal that killed off the game, Wilkinson slotted just one from five kicks from the tee. A poor return from one of rugby's greats.
  • Talking point: There were few talking points but Exeter should receive huge praise for the way they played. Tom Johnson and Nowell were heroic for the Chiefs, a team who three seasons ago were a lesser-known outfit but are now one of Europe's well respected teams.
  • Play of the game: The only try of the match came from a lovely bit of play from Toulon. Craig Burden charged forward and offloaded it to Matt Giteau who was hauled to the ground. But Ali Williams took up the ball and put in a great offload for Florian Fresia who crashed over.

Toulon secured a key victory over Exeter Chiefs but were made to work hard for their 14-9 triumph at Sandy Park on Saturday.

Jonny Wilkinson, who had already missed 11 points, landed a 30-metre drop goal five minutes from time to secure the win. However, the game was costly for the French side, who lost Bakkies Botha (cut head), fellow Springbok Bryan Habana (hamstring) and Craig Burden (arm) to injury in the first half.

Exeter boss Rob Baxter kept faith with the same starting line-up that lost 21-16 at Bath in the Aviva Premiership, with the only change coming on the bench where James Hanks came in for Don Armand. Toulon retained just four of the side that started the 23-0 defeat at Stade Francais in the Top 14, with Wilkinson coming in at fly-half to lead the side and Steffon Armitage coming into the back row.

After a minute's silence held prior to kick-off following the death of Nelson Mandela, Exeter wing Jack Nowell was forced into touch just short of the line. Referee Alain Rolland had been playing advantage and pulled play back for Gareth Steenson to land the opening penalty.

Toulon, victorious just once on the road all season, hit back immediately as hooker Craig Burden made the important break before lock Ali Williams offloaded to loosehead prop Florian Fresia, who bulldozed his way over. Wilkinson was unable to convert from wide on the right but, when flanker Ben White was penalised for not releasing, the former World Cup winner found his target five minutes later from the left.

Steenson, who took a heavy tackle from Mathieu Bastareaud early on, reduced the arrears just before the midway point of the first half before being replaced by England Under 20 fly-half Henry Slade.

The Chiefs, beaten in their previous three domestic matches, were then forced to soak up a period of pressure close to their own line before Nowell pounced on a loose ball - but the winger's kick ahead was too strong as the ball went over the dead ball line. Slade quickly settled with an excellent long kick to touch before weaving his way through the Toulon defence. Then, after a couple of phases of play, he appeared on the other side of the pitch - only to be stopped short by Wilkinson.

Five minutes before the break the 20-year-old Plymouth-born half-back nudged the Chiefs into the lead with a penalty from out wide after the visitors were penalised for a crooked feed at a scrum.

Come the second-half, Wilkinson attempted a long-range penalty from just inside his own half, with the wind at his back, which fell well short - and a minute later he again failed to find the target. Just before the hour mark Wilkinson was short with a 50-metre penalty attempt from the opposite side of the pitch to the previous two, then full-back Luke Arscott had to race back to stop wing Alexis Palisson claiming a touchdown.

Wilkinson was stopped just short of the line before Toulon worked the ball wide through centre Matt Giteau and full-back Drew Mitchell to replacement wing Rudi Wulf - who reached for the line but was adjudged by the TMO to have had a foot in touch.

Despite the capacity crowd at Sandy Park chanting 'we want Jonny', Wilkinson handed over the kicking duties to Giteau, whose three points put Toulon back in front to set up a tense final 15 minutes.

Wilkinson found the mark with his late drop-goal and although the hosts battled on they could not find any more points - paying the price in the closing stages when they gave away another penalty when 15 metres from the line.

Toulon's Florian Fresia touches down for the opening try at Sandy Park © Getty Images
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