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Toulon hold off Glasgow fightback


Jonny Wilkinson helps champions Toulon open their Heineken Cup defence with win over Glasgow.

Jonny Wilkinson helps champions Toulon open their Heineken Cup defence with win over Glasgow.

Jonny Wilkinson helps champions Toulon open their Heineken Cup defence with win over Glasgow.

Jonny Wilkinson's Toulon side showed they are in no mood to surrender their Heineken Cup title as they scored six tries against the hitherto unbeaten RaboDirect PRO12 leaders Glasgow Warriors at Stade Felix Mayol.

Opening their defence of the title they won for the first time in Dublin in May, the French side had bagged a bonus point within 32 minutes and looked an even more complete team than they were last season.

However, with the game seemingly won by half-time the champions then had to weather a spirited fightback from Glasgow, who ran in four tries of their own in 22 minutes to ensure they headed home with a bonus point.

Given how hopelessly overrun they had been in the first half it was an amazing turnaround by Gregor Townsend's team, especially as Toulon had only conceded seven tries in nine games in the Top 14 this season.

However, it was not enough to deny the hosts who reached a half-century of points late on to seal an impressive victory.

Wilkinson returned to the starting line-up and orchestrated a brilliant opening period in which the home side scored 17 points in as many minutes.

He then converted skipper Chis Masoe's try to make it 24-0, but then left the field with an ice pack on his right hand. Such is the strength in depth of the Toulon squad, though, that Wilkinson's departure led to the arrival of Frederic Michalak.

Toulon started with a team containing 956 international caps, and had new signing Bryan Habana watching from the stand.

There were four tries for the home side by the break, with France centre Maxime Mermoz grabbing two of them and Delon Armitage and Masoe notching the others, and they led 34-0.

Glasgow had been unable to get their hands on the ball and spent most of the opening 40 minutes chasing shadows.

But that all changed in the second half, which they edged 28-17, when they finally got to the pace of the game and began to gain some possession.

Canada wing DTH van der Merwe was introduced at half-time and Niko Matawalu moved off the wing to scrum-half.

They made a massive impact and scored three of the four tries between them.

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Van der Merwe crossed within two minutes of coming on and that gave Glasgow the confidence to throw caution to the wind.

Matt Giteau grabbed one back for Toulon, but then it was all Glasgow with Matawalu, Jonny Gray and Van der Merwe again crossing for tries, all of which Ruaridh Jackson converted to cut the gap from 34 points at the break to 13 with 20 minutes to go.

A Michalak penalty steadied the ship for the home side and then Giteau, who started at centre and ended up at outside half, scampered over for his second try to round off a magnificent match.

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