Toulon eventually battered Saracens into submission to capture the 2014 Heineken Cup in Cadiff on Saturday, besting a game Sarries team by a 23-6 margin.
The game was predictably defined by the merciless, power-first approach of Toulon's forwards. Toulon hit hard and often, even if it meant playing fast and loose with the rules off the ball.
|2014 Heineken Cup Final Score Breakdown|
|Toulon||Matt Giteau, Juan Smith||Johnny Wilkinson 3||Johnny Wilkinson 2|
|Saracens||Owen Farrell 2|
This overt physical intimidation did serve to wear down Sarries. But it also contributed to a stop-start first half that prompted referee Alain Rolland into as much action as the players.
On numerous occasions, per Dan Lucas of The Guardian, Rolland warned both sides to cut out the negative tactics and treat this final as a spectacle of Rugby Union. While his words weren't heeded by everybody, Toulon did eventually start moving the ball quicker.
That led to a first-half try from Matt Giteau, finishing a slick move with a typically bulldozing burst over the line. Unerring kicker Jonny Wilkinson then clipped over a drop goal to push Toulon into double-digits.
The successful kick was capture nicely on the Sky Sports Rugby Twitter page:
Toulon appeared to be in cruise control heading into the interval. But as is their way, Saracens stayed in the game and began chipping at their opponents' seven-point lead after the break.
Owen Farrell calmly split the uprights for his second successful penalty conversion, reducing the deficit to just four points early in the second half. But rather than unnerve Toulon, Farrell's penalty served only as a cue for the leaders to suffocate the game.
Wilkinson became more selective and conservative with his kicking, routinely pinning Sarries deep and challenging runners to break through crowded avenues.
The decisive try soon came. Wilkinson started the move releasing a quick pass to Drew Mitchell. He eventually set Mathieu Bastareaud away.
The massive Frenchman powered through two Saracens' players, who didn't seem that keen to try to bring him down. He fired a pass to Juan Smith, who then cleverly exchanged with Juan Fernandez Lobbe, before crossing the line himself.
Wilkinson, of course converted to stretch Toulon's lead to 14.
That left Saracens to go gung-ho. While players like Farrell were committed, there was no composure or flow to Sarries' game.
Toulon, behind a solid showing from Steffon Armitage, simply held their opponent at bay, comfortably seeing out the clock to claim the trophy. A pair of Wilkinson penalties merely added gloss to proceedings, in a fond farewell for the retiring No. 10.
It was a fitting finish both for Wilkinson and the Heineken Cup. The revered tournament will now make way for the new European Champions Cup format.