- Jonny Wilkinson - rugby - Top 14
Wilkinson inspires Toulon victory on season debut
England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson marked his return from injury with a drop-goal reminiscent of the 2003 World Cup final as he led Toulon to an impressive 13-3 win away to European Cup finalists Biarritz on Friday.
AFP - The boot of Jonny Wilkinson and a try from Kris Chesney gave cash-rich Toulon a belated jump-start to their Top 14 season on Friday as the pair combined to inspire a memorable 13-3 win at Biarritz.
Philippe Saint-Andre's star-sprinkled squad made a false start by losing at home to Bayonne, but this time they made no mistake despite being without experienced Argentinian duo Felipe Contepomi and Juan Fernandez Lobbe, as well as Scotland back Rory Lamont and veteran scrum-half Pierre Mignoni.
Biarritz started off with a win at home to Montpellier but were unable to stay the course despite the return to the fray of France number eight Imanol Harinordoquy following a rib injury.
After a cagey opening, Toulon went on the offensive against the European Cup finalists before a 14,000 crowd at the Stade Aguilera and Chesnay scored what proved to be the game's only try after 26 minutes, which Wilkinson converted.
The latter's boot then inflicted further damage with a penalty on the hour and a drop-goal four minutes later, after a Dmitri Yachvili penalty had briefly given Biarritz hope before the interval.
"Tonight, there were no stars but a team," said Saint-Andre.
"In rugby you need champions, but the star is the team. Last week we didn't follow the gameplan, but this time we did.
"I think Toulon hadn't won at Biarritz for 29 years and now we have. At least I'll have this record."
Stade Francais and Bayonne are setting the early pace, having both opened their campaigns with back-to-back successes, while defending champions Clermont shrugged off an opening day loss to Perpignan with a 25-12 victory at Bourgoin.
European champions Toulouse can bag a share of the lead if they see off Castres in Saturday's sole encounter.
With Perpignan, the side Clermont deprived last season at the wire to take their first title, going down to a 26-11 loss at Brive, Friday's win tasted doubly good for Vern Cotter's men.
Yet the champions had to battle after Alberto Di Bernardo booted the hosts into an early lead.
Former Bourgoin favourite Morgan Parra levelled matters and then fired Clermont ahead before Di Bernardo sent the sides in level at 6-6 at the break before converting two further penalties.
But Bourgoin's resistance finally cracked, as Napolioni Nalaga, Alexandre Lapandry and Wesley Fofana went over for tries in the final ten minutes, handing Bourgoin another defeat after a poor showing against Stade Francais.
Stade whipped La Rochelle 41-26 on home turf while Bayonne showd their win over Toulon was no fluke as they flattened Agen 27-0.
Perpignan slumped against Brive in the absence of a trio of fly-halves owing to a mixture of injury and sickness.
And although that gave France Under-20 international Gilles Bosch a chance to establish himself, the challenge proved too great as Brive, spurred on by an opening slip-up at home to Racing-Metro, stacked up a 17-point lead inside the opening 20 minutes.
Damien Browne went over for the opening try on 17 minutes and 120 seconds later Gerhard Vosloo followed after a surging 70-yard run.
Two Mathieu Belie conversions and a quartet of penalties rounded out a fine win.
"We turned in a top-class first half but after the break it was a bit of a non-event," said Brive co-coach Ugo Mola.
"I am happy but not entirely satisfied."