Newcastle stun Toulon with historic win in France
Newcastle kick-started their Heineken Champions Cup campaign with a stunning 26-25 win against three-time European champions Toulon on their own patch, becoming just the second side to do so.
Their only previous defeat in 24 games in Europe’s top tournament had been against Saracens two years ago, and Newcastle – bottom of the Gallagher Premiership going into the game – had to do it the hard way.
Dean Richards’ side found themselves 10 points behind early on after conceding one of the quickest tries in the history of the competition when giant lock Romain Taofifenua charged down a clearing kick with only 21 seconds on the clock.
Francois Trinh-Duc added the conversion and then kicked a seventh-minute penalty to make it 10-0 to the home side, but that was as good as it got for the hosts.
They had three players sent to the sin-bin – prop Jean-Baptiste Gros, full back Daniel Ikpefan and winger Julian Savea – and were left to rue a decision in the final five minutes to kick for the corner, rather than take the three points on offer that might have won the game.
It looked as though it was going to be a long afternoon for the visitors when Young had his kick charged down to gift Toulon, lying 12th in the Top 14 with only two wins this season, an early score.
The last time the Falcons played in the competition was in 2005, when one of Toulon’s most famous players, Jonny Wilkinson, was still playing on Tyneside.
The French oufit looked a shadow of their former selves and now face an uphill battle to qualify from a pool that also contains Montpellier and Edinburgh.
Having fallen behind in the opening exchanges, Newcastle hit back to dominate the next 30 minutes with a side showing 10 changes from last weekend’s side at Sale Sharks.
Fijian No 8 Nemani Nagusa, who stood out on his debut, won a turn-over in the Toulon 22 to allow Joel Hodgson to kick a simple penalty to get his side off the mark.
Midway through the opening half Falcons hooker Kyle Cooper burrowed over from two metres out after Nagusa had been halted on the line, with Hodgson adding a penalty and a conversion from the tee to put the visitors ahead.
Hodgson’s second penalty on 31 minutes made it 16-10 as he punished Gros for his yellow card offence, but the lead was cut to a single point on the stroke of half-time when Toulon number eight Raphael Lakafia just reached the line.
There were no points in the third quarter, but Welsh referee Ben Whitehouse awarded a penalty try to the visitors when Ikprefan hauled down wing Sinoti Sinoti with a high tackle following a Hodgson clean break on half-way.
Hodgson then saw yellow for a deliberate knock-on in his 22 and French skipper Guilhem Guirado converted the driving line-out, with Trinh-Duc adding the extras to get his side to within a point.
The home outside half then edged his side in front on 62 minutes with a penalty, but Hodgson had the final word with a 70th minute penalty shortly after Savea had gone to the bin.