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Toulon too strong for Quins on Cote d’Azur

06 Apr 2012
Toulon too strong for Quins on Cote d’Azur

Harlequins’ hopes of becoming the first side to retain the Amlin Challenge Cup came to a disappointing end with defeat at the hands of a Jonny Wilkinson-inspired Toulon tonight.

The former England fly-half kicked 17 points in a faultless display with the boot, despite being replaced two minutes into the second period.

Tries from Sebastien Tillous Borde, Benjamin Lapeyre and former London Irish flanker Steffon Armitage ensured Quins were unable to repeat December's famous Heineken Cup triumph at Toulouse and set up a semi-final showdown with Stade Francais at The Stoop.

Toulon started brightly against a Quins side missing England skipper Chris Robshaw and star fly-half Nick Evans through injury at the Stade Felix Mayol, with Wilkinson striking a penalty in fourth minute before hitting the target again in the eighth to hand the home side a 6-0 advantage.

Rory Clegg kept his focus amid the noise from the home fans to get Quins off the mark with a 10th-minute penalty. Wilkinson continued to steal the show, though, with a further three beautifully-struck kicks putting Toulon out in front before the half hour.

The first came from fully 45 metres out in the 13th minute; the second arrived four minutes later as Quins were penalised for offside just five metres in from the right-hand touchline; and the third was from two metres inside the Quins half when Karl Dickson crept too far around the side of a scrum with 29 minutes gone.

Things got worse for Quins just three minutes later as Tillous Borde crossed for the game's opening try. Centre Mathieu Bastareaud supplied the incisive burst, with his forward pack driving him on before the scrum-half burrowed through underneath the posts from the resulting ruck. Wilkinson added the straightforward extras to leave Toulon with a 22-3 lead at half-time.

Quins began the second period in a far more encouraging fashion than the first and they twice came close to scoring inside the opening four minutes. Mike Brown was brought down just two metres short moments after the restart before Quins fell foul of the TMO two minutes later.

Prop Mark Lambert powered toward the line as Quins looked to reduce the gap, but TV replays showed he had been held up by more than one Toulon defender.

Quins' task got even harder after 49 minutes when James Johnston was yellow carded for punching following the break-up of a scrum just inside his own half and Australian playmaker Matt Giteau effectively put the game beyond them when he slotted a penalty after 51 minutes.

Toulon then added a second try seven minutes later as full back Lapeyre sliced through from close range after Giteau had switched direction and blindside flanker Pierrick Gunther produced a wonderful offload.

Giteau knocked over the simple conversion to make it 32-3 with still more than a quarter of the game remaining and man-of-the-match Armitage picked up the try his impressive showing deserved when he drove over from a lineout deep in Quins territory with seven minutes left to play.

Danny Care claimed a late consolation after slipping through two tackles having taken a quick tap penalty after 77 minutes, but it was far too little too late for the Aviva Premiership Rugby leaders.

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