Sexton powerless as Toulon run riot
Toulon 41 Racing Metro 14
Jonathan Sexton did little wrong in Toulon last night but his star-studded Racing Metro side was blown away in the battle of the French heavyweights.
And in the process Jonny Wilkinson produced a class performance to win the first battle of the most expensive out-halves in world rugby hands down.
Sexton landed all three penalties for his side but Racing Metro were nearly always on the back foot of a heated contest which ended with several dust-ups in the closing minutes when Toulon were coasting to victory.
Both sides finished with 14 men as Martin Castrogiovanni and Toulon's Eddy Ben Arous were red-carded in a flare-up involving a host of players.
Wilkinson set the bar for Sexton as he produced a man-of-the-match display which yielded a flawless 16 points with the boot – five conversions, a penalty and a drop-goal – as well as a series of sublime touches in open play as he made the most of a dominant pack.
The atmosphere created by the full house of home supporters ensured a hostile welcome for Sexton and his team-mates.
It didn't take long for the home fans to taunt Sexton, when an audacious drop-goal attempt from 40 metres on the right wing, after just half a minute, missed the target.
Both Sexton and Wilkinson attracted plenty of attention from the opposing back-rows, while Sexton also had the crowd to contend with and they gave it full voice when he sent a crossfield kick directly to touch after three minutes.
The Racing Metro scrum was in some degree of difficulty from the outset and the visitors struggled to win clean possession off their own ball.
Inevitably, Wilkinson was involved in the opening try and the capacity home crowd of over 14,500 were on their feet when he helped Maxime Mermoz and Matt Giteau combine to send Kiwi winger David Smith down the left to cut in under the posts after eight minutes.
Wilkinson added the easy conversion but Racing Metro hit back immediately and Sexton, taking the maximum time to compose himself, displayed nerves of steel to steer a 25-metre penalty from just to the left between the posts despite all the heckling.
Racing were denied a try after 18 minutes when the television match official, after taking an age to make his decision, ruled that Adrien Plante's pass to his No 8 Mas Matadigo was forward and, with Sexton preparing to slot the conversion, a scrum was awarded which Racing Metro lost.
A yellow card to Toulon flanker Virgile Bruni presented Sexton with his second kick, this time just to the left on the '22', and again he kept his nerve to make it 7-6.
But Toulon, who drew their opening game 22-22 away to Montpellier, finished the half stronger and it was their skipper Wilkinson who led the way.
He slotted a trademark drop-goal with his left boot on 29 minutes after good pressure and then split the posts on the stroke of half-time from 38 metres on the left touchline to make it 13-6 at the interval.
The game went further away from Racing Metro seven minutes after the restart as Toulon piled on the pressure and were rewarded when scrum-half Sebastien Tillous Borde touched down under the posts, with Wilkinson again adding the easy conversion.
As with Toulon's first try, Racing were given a chance to reduce the margin almost immediately and Sexton negotiated a tricky angle from the left to make it 20-9 after 50 minutes.
But, almost immediately, Toulon struck again and this time there was no way back for Sexton and his men.
Scrum-half Tillous Borde was the creator this time and lock Jocelino Suta finished, with the unerring Wilkinson again adding the points. The fourth try, on the hour, was made by a touch of class from Wilkinson when he displayed lightning hands to set up a move which finished with Giteau scoring under the posts.
The wheels came off Racing Metro after that and replacement scrum-half Fabrice Estebanez had a wild attacking pass intercepted by Smith, who ran from just outside his own '22' for his second try, with Wilkinson again adding the conversion in front of the posts.
Racing got over for a consolation try in the final play of the night but couldn't disguise they were massively outplayed.
Toulon – D Armitage; V Martin, M Mermoz (M Bastareaud 59), M Gitteau, D Smith; J Wilkinson, S Tillous Borde (M Claassens 54); A Sheridan (X Chiocci 54), B Noirot (S Bruno 56), C Hayman (M Castrogiovanni 54); B Botha (D Rossouw 54), J Suta; V Bruni, S Armitage, M Masoe (P Gunther 70).
Racing Metro – B Lapeyre; A Plante, H Chavancy, J Roberts (F Extebanex 61), M Andreu; J Sexton (J Wisniewski 66), S Descons (L Magnaval 57); S Tonga Uiha (E Ben Arous 55), D Szarzewski (V Lacombe 55), B Mujati (L Ducalon 55); F Metz, F Van Der Merwe; W Lauret, B Le Roux (D Lydiate 58), M Matadigo.
REF – R Poite