Jonny Wilkinson turns back the clock at Toulon

By Jerome Butcher

Jonny Wilkinson kicked all of Rugby Club Toulonnais’ nine points on Thursday night as they took on Guinness Premiership high-fliers Saracens in the European Challenge Cup at Vicarage Road.

Although Wilko did not score as many as he did back in October when Toulon inflicted Saracen’s first defeat of the season by winning 31-23 at the Stade Felix Mayol, he did keep up his fantastic scoring rate. That day the England fly half scored 14 points and his team had put on a superb display of running rugby to beat the previously undefeated ‘men-in-black’.

Wilko has scored an incredible 116 points for the three-time French champions so far this season. He is third highest scorer in the French League and the 30-year-old England No.10 seems to be turning back the clock by proving he still has what it takes to play at the top level and on the European stage.

This week’s match saw Saracens take revenge for that defeat in France. They won their first match of the year in front of a sizeable home crowd who had braved the frosty conditions. Saracens, however, will rue missing the chance of getting the four-try bonus point. Both teams are now tied on tries scored: three each in their head-to-head fixtures.

Wilkinson scored a second minute drop-goal under the watchful eyes of England team manager Martin Johnson and kicking coach Jon Callard. He then scored two of his three long-range penalty kicks in his first game back in England since moving to France.

Saracens took charge of the match when both Toulon’s flankers were sent to the sin bin by referee Neil Paterson. Derrick Hougaard produced the goods for the Londoners from the tee by kicking five penalties and converting Justin Melck’s try.

It is a close-run thing as Toulon sit only one point above Saracens with one match left of the group stages. Jonny’s side will play Castres, currently second in the French league, next Saturday. Meanwhile Saracens are given the somewhat easier task of travelling to the Stadio Mario Battaglini, to play Italian side Rovigo.

Both teams will be looking for wins with a bonus point if possible to secure top spot in Pool 3. The winners of the Amlin Challenge Cup will secure a place in next season’s Heineken Cup — something which both teams will be desperate to earn.

Saracens: Goode; Penney, Ratuvou, Barritt, Wyles; Hougaard, Marshall; Gill, Brits, Nieto, Borthwick, Ryder, Melck, Saull, Joubert.

Replacements: Cato for Goode (60), Powell for Wyles (61), de Kock for Marshall (59), Aguero for Gill (41), Ongaro for Brits (65), Mercey for Nieto (51), Vyvyan for Ryder (51), Barrell for Joubert (68).

Sin Bin: Ratuvou (76).

Toulon: Rooney; Marienval, Lovobalavu, May, Loamanu; Wilkinson, Henjak; Taumoepeau, Djoudi, Leaaetoa, Lozada, Chesney, Missoup, Beal, van Niekerk.

Replacements: Contepomi for Rooney (57), Giacobazzi for Henjak (71), Emmanuelli for Taumoepeau (55), Bruno for Djoudi (55), Ryan for Leaaetoa (59), Tussac for Beal (73). Not Used: Kubriashvili, Kefu.

Sin Bin: Beal (44), Missoup (47).

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