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Halfpenny kicks Toulon to victory

Leigh Halfpenny's metronomic boot helped Toulon to cruise past Leicester 23-8 and avenge last week's defeat to the Tigers in the European Champions Cup.

Last year's Heineken Cup winners saw their nine-match unbeaten run in Europe end at Welford Road last Sunday - in a match that will unfortunately be remembered more for Martin Castrogiovanni's foul-mouthed assault on Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill afterwards.

But the Top14 side exacted their revenge in style at a noisy Stade Mayol, with Ali Williams and Mathieu Bastareaud scoring tries, while Halfpenny added a 13-point haul on his return to the side.

Blaine Scully crossed for the Tigers on one of the few occasions Toulon were breached, while fly-half Owen Williams - who kicked 20 points in a fine display when these sides met last week - endured a difficult afternoon as Leicester toiled.

Victory takes Toulon five points clear of Leicester at the top of Pool Three and they will now be firm favourites to progress after bouncing back to underline their credentials.

Castrogiovanni was left out by Toulon in the wake of his expletive-ridden tirade last week, while Halfpenny returned at full back for the hosts and Delon Armitage switched out to the wing.

Delon's brother Steffon set the tone for Toulon with a rampaging run directly from the kick off and they had the Tigers pinned back before Halfpenny slotted a penalty over in the fifth minute to open the scoring.

The Tigers - who welcomed lock Geoff Parling back to the starting XV for the first time since September - seemed overawed by the occasion and made basic errors at the breakdown, while Owen Williams kicked a restart straight into touch, to contribute to the hosts' early dominance.

Toulon got the try they deserved when Ali Williams crashed over from close range after 11 minutes and Halfpenny added the conversion and a second penalty to give the hosts a healthy 13-0 lead after 15 minutes.

Owen Williams missed a longish kick of his own and then compounded a bad few minutes by conceding cheap field position with a clearance out on the full, which ultimately led to Halfpenny splitting the posts once again.

But Welsh fly-half Williams, 22, hit back with a strong break to set up a try for Leicester out of nothing.

It was the first time Toulon were placed on the back foot and it was surprisingly easy after Williams weaved his way over the gain line for the ball to be shipped out wide for Blaine Scully to dot down in the corner. Williams' woes with the boot continued, however, as he missed the conversion and they trailed 16-5 at the break.

Halfpenny proved he was human by missing a kick from out wide early in the second half and then the Tigers started to grow into the contest.

Full back Mathew Tait showed great awareness to use referee George Clancy as an auxiliary blocker, before racing into Toulon territory, but Niki Goneva wasted the chance by cutting inside when he should have pinned his ears back and gone for the line.

That proved to be a key moment as the hosts hit back at the other end, with French centre Bastareaud dashing in under the posts after fly-half Nicholas Sanchez was stopped just inches short.

Williams then kicked his first and only penalty of the afternoon for the visitors, but the crowd booed them for being negative and not going for the try.

The Tigers struggled to make inroads after that and Toulon comfortably kept them at arm's length to see out the win although they may be frustrated at not securing a bonus point after dominating for long periods.

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