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Toulon overpower Clermont to secure Champions Cup glory

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RC Toulon stormed to a 24-18 Champions Cup victory over French rivals Clermont Auvergne to become the first team ever to claim three European titles in a row.

It was a shaky first quarter for the defending champions with Wesley Fofana scoring the first try of the final for Clermont but three Leigh Halfpenny penalties and a conversion after Mathieu Bastareaud went over gave Toulon a half-time lead.

A brilliant solo try by Nick Abendanon gave Clermont hope but Drew Mitchell put the game out of reach for Toulon.

And Clermont were forced to resign themselves to yet another final defeat at the hands of Toulon after the heartbreak of Dublin in 2013.

Clermont suffered a blow before the game when fly-half Brock James was ruled out after injuring his thigh in the warm up.

But all the pressure was on Toulon’s try line early on with only a try-saving tackle from Bryan Habana preventing Napolioni Nalaga from putting them ahead.

And it didn’t take long for James’ replacement Camille Lopez to adjust to his surprise inclusion, kicking The Massif Central club into a deserved six-point lead with 12 minutes on the clock.

Halfpenny reduced the deficit for Toulon, converting a penalty from right in front of the posts.

Then the man who scored Clermont’s only try in their semi-final scored their first in the final – Fofana taking advantage of Toulon confusion after the ball was charged down to accelerate away for the try.

But two penalties from the boot of Halfpenny pulled Toulon to within two points of Clermont and on the stroke of half-time the champions completed their comeback.

Clermont couldn’t cope with the overlap and Bastareaud forced his way over the line, with Halfpenny adding the extras to make it 11-16 at the interval.  

Clermont struggled to get retain meaningful possession at the beginning of the second half and Halfpenny stretched Toulon’s lead to eight points with another penalty.

Franck Azéma’s side seemed to lack ideas and struggled to find the kind of form that saw them secure impressive victories over Aviva Premiership sides Northampton Saints and Saracens in the knockout stages.

But then came a moment of sheer brilliance from Nick Abendanon, who showed superb vision and individual skill to chip the ball over Carl Hayman and drive over the line for the score.

Ali Williams thought he’d extended the lead for Toulon shortly after when he gathered the ball and plunged over in the corner but he was judged to have lost control in the grounding.

Toulon’s fan’s didn’t have to wait long for the score though because Mitchell broke free moments later at the line-out and showed excellent footwork to dodge Clermont’s desperate tackles and go over for the decisive score amidst jubilant scenes at Twickenham.

 

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