Challenge Cup: Five takeaways from Toulon v Glasgow Warriors as Sergio Parisse enjoys special night in Dublin

Sergio Parisse for Toulon with Challenge Cup Credit: Alamy
Sergio Parisse for Toulon with Challenge Cup Credit: Alamy

Following Toulon’s 43-19 victory over Glasgow Warriors in the Challenge Cup final at the Aviva Stadium, here’s our five takeaways from Dublin.

The top line

Toulon put in a quite remarkable display of complete rugby as they simply blasted Glasgow Warriors off the pitch in a six-try demolition of the first-time finalists.

Losing Dan Biggar in the second minute might have been a setback for many sides, but not Toulon – Ihaia West, signed from La Rochelle last year but realistically redundant for most of this, put in one of his most memorable performances as he crossed for a score and, with the magnificent Baptiste Serin in the first half, absolutely controlled the Toulon attacking effort, with the discarded former French scrum-half crossing for a brace.

It was one of the most complete performances seen for a long time at a final – Charles Ollivon and his back-row absolutely destroyed Glasgow at the breakdown – massive shifts from three players with Cornell du Preez particularly effective around the ruck, and Beka Gigyashvilli, Jean Baptiste Gros and Dany Priso in crunching form in the scrum.

Kolbe magic

Star of the Game Cheslin Kolbe might best be known for his coruscating runs and breakneck sidesteps, but his performance in this Challenge Cup match showed the physical and defensive power of the diminutive full-back.

The raw stats don’t do his performance justice – six carries for 12 metres isn’t vintage Kolbe but it was the impact every intervention he made had; his interplay with Jiuta Wainiqolo for Toulon’s fourth try was exquisite – with Kolbe running a magnificent cut back and switch pass to send the right wing flying over. And in defence, the power of his hits were enough to see the likes of Sebastian Cancelliere, a man with 30kg over him, slammed back time and time again as Kolbe hit a number of thundering tackles.

With his centres both putting in massive performances playing off the gaps his presence created, Kolbe showed once again that he is one of the world’s foremost back three players as he moves into international mode with the Springboks.

Farewell to a King

Sergio Parisse told Planet Rugby this week that he had no message for Italy head coach Kieran Crowley after he was omitted from the initial Azzurri World Cup squad. However actions speak louder than words and 70 minutes of compelling brilliance from the number eight might yet still see him taken to his sixth World Cup.

This was his night, perhaps his final big game and one where rather fittingly he walked off the pitch as a champion, something perhaps he would have liked to have done more often than he has. His 14th minute try came courtesy of some magnificent work from Serin and Gabin Villiere and was finished off from short range with a typical Italian flourish as he crashed over for the second Toulon try.

He was at his electric best all night, not only catching everything that came his way, offloading and scoring tries, but importantly he, together with the outstanding Ollivon and Du Preez simply annihilated Glasgow at the breakdown.

As Parisse left the pitch in the 70th minute so the Aviva Stadium rose as one to applaud one of the all-time greats of rugby. It has been one hell of a career but maybe, just maybe after tonight’s performance there’s still one last dance to be had – providing Crowley is watching.

Glasgow experiences

Franco Smith was at pains to explain that winning cups at this level is a learning curve and that his team will emerge better for their loss: “To get to a final is one thing,” he said, “But to win one is something that comes with experience – Toulon have been here many times and their knowledge on how to get over the line was clear – they’ve done it on four occasions now and have the class of player that understands how to win.”

Whilst the Scots simply couldn’t cope with the power of Toulon in the first half, some slick handling and great work from their midfielders Huw Jones and Sione Tuipulotu saw Kyle Steyn score a couple as Glasgow came out firing in the second half.

But it was all too little too late for the first time finalists – they will emerge better for their experiences tonight but leave the Aviva somewhat chastened from the manhandling they received by an excellent Toulon side.

The bottom line

Toulon now automatically qualify for next season’s Champions Cup and with Ollivon leading them to his first trophy as skipper, they look a team rebuilding to the heights of their halcyon days of the Jonny Wilkinson era. They will lose not only the great Parisse, but Matthieu Bastereaud will also be moving on as he approaches the end of his career. The arrival of England lock David Ribbans might replace some of Parisse’s influence, but with the likes of Priso, Serin, Du Preez and Kolbe around, the French club look set to go from strength to strength as they continue in the Ollivon era.

Glasgow have a lot to be proud of and with their brilliant three-quarter line they can unpick many a defence. But rugby at this level is about gainline brutality and they will walk away learning that they simply have to improve their physicality to succeed at this level. It was a great run from the Scots but on the night Toulon simply had too much in every aspect of the game and were fully deserved of their win.

READ MORE: Challenge Cup: Sergio Parisse scores as Toulon dominate out of sorts Glasgow Warriors in one-sided final

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