With a full-time job for a while this is a sitting on the sofa watch, having watched a cracking game between Saracens and Wasps in the final round of the Premier 15’s. Saracens face a team with some top class French players as well as one of my favourite players of all time, Sergio Parisse, still brilliant in one of the most key positions on the pitch at 38. Based on Saracens win at Gloucester they can beat any team at this time, I’m watching with bated breath and hope! It’s good to hear Nick Mullins and David Flatman on commentary, it should be a balanced affair commentary wise. I’m going to type this as I go along, so excuse the tense, it may vary!
The atmosphere as you’d expect is amazing! Mako Vunipola is back for Saracens as is Max Malins, Cheslin Koilbe is not playing for Toulon, phew!
An opening try for Toulon went to the uber talented French winger Gabin Villiere after Saracens had stopped a potential break away try, Parisse was heavily involved in both the break `away and the try. A very wobbly conversion from Louis Carbonel sailed through the posts. Toulon had a 7 minute lead with less than 5 minutes on the clock.
Jamie George had a wobbly throw in after Toulon had given away a penalty in the previous line out, the scrum saw a free kick awarded to Toulon.
The referee blew the whistle for a penalty, it was a concern to hear Mako Vunipola giving the referee his opinion, that’s happened a few times and not ended well. A review of a late hit on Alex Goode saw Saracens awarded a penalty, that was awarded where the ball landed, the commentators disagreed with the penalty as do the crowd, very clearly. French crowds always boo and whistle the kicker, they went for it big time on this one, it bothered Owen Farrell not one jot. Toulon 7 Saracens 3 after 12 minutes.
Cue more boos as Parisse was deemed to have touched the ball from a high kick up field, Saracens were then awarded a penalty, may more boos, of course. A harder kick, Farrell kicked and hit the posts, but, Ben Earl charged down the clearing kick and scored!!! A loud shout from Chelmsford! The conversion sailed through the posts and Saracens were ahead by 3 after 17 minutes. Worryingly Max Malins left the pitch at this point, on came Alex Lozowski, a real favourite of mine. Elliot Daly moved out to the wing, Lozowski into the centre.
An early push in the second scrum saw a free kick for Saracens, then another penalty for Saracens in the ruck. Toulon defended well as Saracens attacked close to their line. Nick Tompkins had a couple of solo darts, but to no avail.
A couple of penalties against Toulon saw the referee talking to them, Etzebeth had interfered with Itioje in the air at the line out, another one both David Flatman an the Toulon crowd disagreed with. The score at 27 minutes, Toulon 7 Saracens 13.
It was good to hear the referee telling a Toulon player to go away as he wasn’t the captain, but gain Mako had things to say too, not good that. He was also rather fed up with Owen Farrell at that point. Moments later warning him he’d penalise him next time, captain or not.
Toulon look so exciting and dangerous with the ball in their hands, they had a great attack but lost the ball, Tompkins then knocked the ball on. Another scrum, this one saw a penalty awarded to Toulon, but not until another exciting attack after Parisse had picked up at the base of the scrum. Carbonel carefully placed the ball on the Tee and slotted the kick over. Toulon 10 Saracens 13 on 34 minutes.
Christopher Tolofua was having a great game for Toulon, winning them another penalty in the ruck. Carbonel missed the kick maintaining Saracens 3 point lead on 38 minutes.
Villiere finished the half as he started it, scoring a wonderful try, I’m not sure how many passes there were in the build up, but it wouldn’t surprise me to know it was every Toulon player, it was a beauty. The score at half time was Toulon 15 Saracens 13.
Another scrum and this time a penalty for Saracens. Elliot Daly had a kick at the posts, ‘cleverly’ moving the ball a metre further towards them, the kick was a long one, it had the legs but not the direction.
Theo McFarland was having a second great game in a row, making his mark in Europe again, he’s proving to be some signing for Saracens.
Baptiste Serin made a great break after a penalty was awarded, Alex Goode was in his way, may well have taken a small step to be in his way, but the ball, kicked forward, went into touch. Saracens lost their 2nd consecutive line out in a row.
Mako Vunipola left the pitch on 50 minutes, replaced by Eroni Mawi. Villiere of the try scoring skills won a penalty in the ruck as Mawi held on to the ball, is there anything he can’t do? Carbonel’s kick sailed through the posts and the score was Toulon 18 Saracens 13.. At this point Farrell had another warning from the referee, he was heard telling Farrell to work with him or he’d change the captain!
The tackling in the middle of the field from Toulon was ferocious, Saracens were making no headway. Parisse was substituted after a brilliant 57 minutes. Saracens were awarded a penalty in the next scrum. I’m really glad I wasn’t there, while I know the French make the noise at kicks it was just too much. Farrell’s kick was successful taking the score to Toulon 18 Saracens 16 on 59 minutes.
Another beautiful try from Toulon stretched their lead, Fijian Juita Wainiqolo on the opposite wing to Villiere took a lovely pass then showed his speed, he headed for the space and scored a cracker. Toulon 25 Saracens 16 at 62 minutes.
An unusual error from Serin saw him kick the ball straight out having taken the ball back into the 22, that gave Saracens a good attacking platform, they then won a penalty after a great intercept from Serin was held on to, great work by Maro Itoje. Close to the line Saracens rolled forward but Toulon won the scrum put in, Charles Ollivon had no small part to play in that, he was having a great game.
Saracens kicked to the corner again after they’d broken through after a clever pass from Owen Farrell. They won another penalty, and made their way over the line to be held up by Etzebeth.
Another penalty for offside against Toulon and a team warning with less than 7 minutes on the clock. Farrell missed touch, or rather Auymeric Luc kept the ball in, then Manu Vunipola on as a sub dropped high ball in Saracens half. Toulon played a high octane second half, outdoing Saracens in most areas. The final will be an all French affair. A deserved win for Toulon and a deserved Star of the match award for Fly Half Louis Carbonel.
A somewhat disjointed match report I’ll try to add some photos from a fellow fan tomorrow.