Challenge Cup: Toulon hold off plucky London Irish to reach semi-finals

·3-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Toulon booked their place in the Challenge Cup semi-finals when they clinched a narrow 19-18 triumph against London Irish at Stade Félix Mayol on Sunday.

Louis Carbonel led the way for Toulon as he finished with a 14-point haul courtesy of a conversion and four penalties and their other points were scored by their captain, Charles Ollivon, who crossed for a try.

For London Irish, Albert Tuisue and Henry Arundell crossed the whitewash and Paddy Jackson succeeded with one conversion and two penalties.

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Arundell’s try was an outstanding individual effort in which he ran the length of the field. The 19-year-old, who is qualified to play for England, Scotland or Wales, received the ball just in front of his own try-line in the 74th minute and slalomed his way almost 100 metres at devastating speed to dive over in the corner.

The incredible score hauled the Exiles back to within a point, but Jackson’s conversion attempt from the touchline to win it sailed agonisingly wide, meaning Toulon will now face Saracens in the semi-finals next weekend.

It was harsh on the Premiership outfit who were outstanding for much of the first half, but Toulon gradually imposed themselves, with an opportunist try from flanker Ollivon on the hour mark ultimately making the difference.

Ollivon snuck through the middle of a breakdown for Toulon’s only touchdown, with the score ruled good after a TMO check.

Carbonel’s conversion and a further penalty from the home fly-half, to add to a strike early in the second half, proved to be enough.

Irish will rue a yellow card for flanker Juan Martin Gonzalez in the 50th minute for a high tackle on Carbonel.

Jackson missed a straightforward penalty while the visitors were down to 14 men, but Ollivon scored before Gonzalez returned to the fray.

Declan Kidney’s side were deeply impressive for much of the first half after beginning the game with jolting intensity.

Irish intent was clear from an early stage when they planted two close-range penalties to touch looking for seven points rather than three.

Off the second of these, in the ninth minute, number eight Tuisue rumbled over for the opening try from a thunderous rolling maul Toulon just could not repel.

It was an uncharacteristically error-strewn start by the French side. They were penalised at the set-piece and fly-half Carbonel and full-back Aymeric Luc were both guilty of kicking to touch on the full to lose their team territory.

There were 23 minutes on the clock before Toulon entered the Irish 22, but they did impose themselves more in the second quarter.

By half-time two Carbonel penalties – the second from the halfway line with the last kick of the period – had reduced the deficit to four points, but only after both sides had received yellow cards in the 35th minute.

Toulon scrum-half Baptiste Serin was booked for a shove on Australian lock Rob Simmons, while Irish hooker Agustin Creevy was also given time in the sin-bin for pulling the hair of Springbok lineout enforcer Eben Etzebeth.

In the end though, it was Toulon who won the battle on the scoreboard despite Arundell’s late moment of magic.

READ MORE: Challenge Cup: Lyon comeback stuns Glasgow Warriors in exciting quarter-final clash

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