CHALLENGE CUP REPORT: Cheslin Kolbe produced a man-of-the-match performance as Toulon crushed Glasgow Warriors 43-19 in the Challenge Cup Final on Friday.
The French side looked unstoppable from the start and they outscored their opponents by six tries to three on their way to victory.
It’s the first time Toulon has won the trophy after winning the Champions Cup three times.
It was also Glasgow’s first European Final, but Franco Smith’s team were completely outplayed.
Springbok star Kolbe produced a fantastic all-round performance. He tackled like a man possessed and played a big role in two second-half tries.
There was a healthy French contingent among the 31 000 crowd inside the stadium with La Rochelle playing Leinster in the top-tier Champions Cup on Saturday.
Glasgow boss Smith picked Scotland pair Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones in midfield, eyeing Scotland’s first continental title.
Toulon head coach Pierre Mignoni selected a back-three of South Africa’s Kolbe, Fiji’s Jiuta Wainiqolo and France’s Gabin Villiere, promising an open affair.
Toulon, making a fifth appearance in a Challenge Cup Final, suffered an early blow as flyhalf Dan Biggar was replaced due to a head injury.
The French club responded well to Biggar’s early departure by crossing less than 30 seconds later as scrumhalf Baptiste Serin gathered his own smart grubber kick to open the scoring.
Serin converted the extras to make it 7-0 before they doubled their advantage just before the quarter.
Sergio Parisse, who is set to retire at the end of the season, then powered over just four months out from his 40th birthday and Serin slotted the additional two points.
Their dominance was rewarded five minutes later as Serin claimed his second, showing his star-studded back-three an example with a double, and he kicked his conversion.
Parisse’s ability was underlined catching a high ball from a standing start midway through the first half despite being in his 20th campaign of senior rugby.
Toulon held their comfortable lead until the break but influential Serin suffered a dead leg and was substituted by Benoit Paillaugue.
Glasgow returned from the interval revitalised but failed to make the most of being camped inside Toulon’s 22m for the first eight minutes after the interval, highlighting their issues with the ball during the whole game.
Rugby World Cup winner Kolbe highlighted his quality from the boot with half an hour to play with a lovely touch-finder which eventually resulted in Paillaugue extending the score to 24-0 with a penalty.
Glasgow’s slim hopes of a comeback were alight with 25 minutes to go as winger Kyle Steyn crossed after a smart line-out move and George Horne’s extras made it 24-7.
Their aspirations were dashed three minutes later as Wainiqolo and compatriot Waisea Nayacalevu crashed over.
Glasgow claimed consolation tries through Sebastian Cancelliere and captain Steyn’s second effort as Parisse was given a standing ovation as he added a second Challenge Cup to his trophy haul in an imperious display.
There was enough time for Biggar’s replacement in Ihaia West to claim his outfit’s sixth try with two minutes to play to the pleasure of those who had made the trip from the Cote d’Azur.
Man of the match: Cheslin Kolbe showed why he is one of the best players in the world. His positioning on defence was outstanding and he put in a few huge hits, which took the momentum away from Glasgow. He was also great with ball in hand. He drew a few defenders in the build-up to Jiuta Wainiqolo’s try and he also had the ball in his hands several times before Waisea Nayacalevu scored his try. The Springbok’s kicking out of hand was also spot on and a great 50-22 in the second half is an example of this.
For Glasgow Warriors:
Tries: Steyn 2, Cancelliere
Cons: Horne 2
Tries: Serin 2, Parisse, Wainiqolo, Nayacalevu, West
Cons: Serin 3, Paillaugue 2
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Ollie Smith, 14 Sebastián Cancelliere, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Kyle Steyn (captain), 10 Domingo Miotti, 9 George Horne, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Sione Vailanu, 6 Matt Fagerson, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Jean-Pierre du Preez, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Jamie Bhatti.
Replacements: 16 Johnny Matthews, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Lewis Bean, 21 Rory Darge, 22 Alistair Price, 23 Stafford McDowall.
Toulon: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Jiuta Wainiqolo, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Gabin Villiere, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 Brian Alainu’uese, 4 Mathieu Tanguy, 3 Beka Gigashvili, 2 Teddy Baubigny, 1 Dany Priso.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Kieran Brooks, 19 Facundo Isa, 20 Mathieu Bastareaud, 21 Baptiste Paillaugue, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Jeremy Sinzelle.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Chris Busby (Ireland), Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Additional source: AFP