/ Heineken Cup 2013-14

/ Verdict

Toulon 24-16 Munster
Toulon prove big is brutally effective
Tom Hamilton
April 27, 2014
Jonny Wilkinson has a shot at ending his career with another Heineken Cup medal © Getty Images

Munster will be left to lament their uncharacteristic error count as they bowed out of the Heineken Cup at the semi-final stage for the fourth time on the bounce. Toulon's giants will go to Cardiff chasing their second title in as many years.

It was a pulsating match, a game that did not want for physicality, but Toulon's strength in depth and the deadly boot of Jonny Wilkinson cancelled out a valiant attempt from Munster to stun the raucous crowd in Marseille.

If Wilkinson's career has taught rugby anything, it is that you cannot offer him penalties within kicking distance. He will inevitably punish you. Munster made a rod for their own back in the first-half when errors from restarts offered Toulon easy points just moments after Munster had managed to score some of their own.

With Wilkinson's successful strike rate, errors mean prizes. Twice in the first-half Munster had put their own points on the board but knocked on one following restart which allowed a drop-goal and were offside at the next. Wilkinson inevitably profited from both and the penalty count killed Munster in the end as they conceded nine in the first-half.

Toulon at times looked like they were going to pull away. Bryan Habana was making inroads both on the flank and through the middle as Munster's tendency to go wide at times instead of using Keatley's boot and Conor Murray's box kicks to gain territory backfired. When you are facing a back three of Delon Armitage, Habana and Drew Mitchell, one immediate aim must be to suffocate their space. But for a superb tap-tackle from James Downey, Habana would have probably ended up with a try of his own.

Munster did their best to match Toulon's physicality with fire of their own and stayed in the game despite at times hanging on by mere finger tips. Toulon lock Jocelino Suta did well and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe put in an assured performance at openside - he was unlucky to see yellow in the first-half for connecting with Murray's head when he went rampaging through a ruck looking to steal the ball. Armitage also sent another timely reminder to the England management of his ability and impact from the back of the scrum.

Inevitably it will be Wilkinson who gets the headlines for his assured performance from the tee and in open field but Simon Zebo also deserves plenty of plaudits. During the Six Nations it was defensive weaknesses that were reportedly part of the reason why he was overlooked but he was superb both in defence and going forward. His try-saving tackle on Steffon Armitage in the second half was sublime and he got the try that gave Munster hope.

Coughlan was also heroic at No.8 and his last-gasp charge down when Wilkinson lined up a late drop-goal showcased his brilliant work rate. But that will come as little consolation for Munster, they have now lost four Heineken Cup semi-finals on the bounce. They will be left to wonder what might have been after they failed to execute a five-metre lineout in the 72nd minute and other passes that went to ground.

Toulon too left points on the field but they will now be booking their flights to Cardiff for May 24. There they will find a Saracens team who will offer their own physicality and Toulon will have to tense up and go again. If Toulon do go on to win back-to-back titles it will be their strength in depth that has seen them achieve a feat only matched by Leicester and Leinster. It promises to be a final built on raw physicality and power and a fine finish for this tournament as two grand old warriors Wilkinson and Steve Borthwick look to finish their careers with silverware.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.

  • Latest
  • Most Viewed
  • News
  • Features
  • Formula 1

    McLaren getting more from Honda PU - Button

    Jenson Button was in an optimistic mood following Friday practice in Malaysia after seeing McLaren make a step forward from its dismal Australian Grand Prix pace

  • Rugby

    Brown ruled out of Saracens clash with concussion

    England full-back Mike Brown has been ruled out of Harlequins' Premiership showdown with Saracens at Wembley after showing signs of concussion after the Six Nations win over France

  • Football

    Bans for Real Madrid fans who kicked Gareth Bale's car

    Three Real Madrid fans are set to be fined €3,001 each and banned from attending all games for six months after kicking and punching the cars of Blancos players, including that of Gareth Bale, on the night of the team's 2-1 defeat at Barcelona

  • Rugby

    Lions spoil Cooper's Reds return

    The Lions have rounded out a fine Australasian tour with a third win from four matches, an 18-17 triumph over the struggling Queensland Reds in Brisbane

  • Formula 1

    Who said what after Friday practice

    ESPN rounds up all the reaction from up and down the paddock after Friday practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix

  • Formula 1

    F1 cost cutting: Not putting money where the mouth is

    Mudslinging and an agreement on something that will never happen, it's all in a day's work for a Formula One boss, as Maurice Hamilton explains...

  • Rugby

    Unsavoury sledging did not end with Potgieter

    Fallout continues from the NSW-Brumbies derby, with one Tahs forward - not Potgieter - surprised by other unsavoury comments during the game, Greg Growden reports

  • Rugby

    Super Rugby preview, team news, line-ups: Round 7

    Greg Growden previews Super Rugby round 7. We've also got key stats, team news and all the line-ups to inform your ESPN Footytips Super Rugby picks

  • Formula 1

    Storm clouds gather in Malaysia

    Will Mercedes dominate again? Can anybody catch up with the help of a rainstorm? And will the Red Bull/Renault relationship tear itself apart? All those questions and more will be answered at this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix

  • Formula 1

    Alonso: More questions than answers

    Maurice Hamilton pieces together what we know from the Fernando Alonso crash and explains why the latest answers raise more questions

  • News
  • Features
  • Inside Boxing

    'I've sparred with Klitschko and Fury - now I want Joshua'

    Unbeaten heavyweight Dillian Whyte, 28, (14-0, 11 KOs) tells ESPN where his rivalry with Anthony Joshua stems from and outlines the plan for his career this year after returning from a doping ban in November

  • UFC

    Top 10 best UFC fighters of all time

    Some of the best fighters to ever glove up have plied their trade in the Octagon - now ESPN list the 10 best who have fought under the UFC banner

  • Ask Steven

    Home front

    Who was the first Briton to win the British Grand Prix?

  • Ask Steven

    Pointless drivers

    Where does Anthony Davidson's record of 24 Grands Prix without a point rank him?

  • Ask Steven

    Home favourites

    How many F1 drivers have had one win, but done it at their home Grand Prix?

Sponsored Links

Make Huge Income from your Home
Download your Free Guide And Learn How To Increase Your Monthly Income