England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson almost single-handedly masterminded Toulon’s last gasp 19-14 victory over Welsh opponents Ospreys in their European Cup clash on Saturday.
Ospreys — quarter--finalists the past three seasons — led by two points with four minutes remaining, but were powerless to stop Wilkinson feeding compatriot Paul Sackey, who went in to touch down.
Wilkinson, whose form has enjoyed a huge revival since joining Toulon last year, converted to seal the victory and give himself a tally of 14 points in the match.
“For us it was as if we were playing a test match, and we won it,” Wilkinson said. “This is an important win for the squad and we must build on this next week against Munster.”
“I know that Martin Johnson [the England coach] was in the stands but I didn’t feel it was up to me to impress them. He and his assistant [Brian Smith] were here to support me,” the 31-year-old 2003 World Cup-winning fly-half said.
For Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal, it was a proud moment as he saw all the long hours and millions of euros invested in the team rewarded.
“I am really happy, because this is the first time in the club’s history that we have played a European Cup match,” said the 50-year-old, who made his fortune out of comic book publishing. “This part of the story has begun well. I don’t know if everybody realizes the significance of beating Ospreys, who are a very good side, but only three years ago we were playing Limoges in the Second Division.”
England’s two-time European champions Leicester also pulled off a late victory, Alesana Tuilagi touching down to give the Tigers a 34-29 victory over much improved Italian side Treviso, who earlier this season beat last year’s European champions Leinster in the Magners League.
The other match in Leicester’s Pool was a high scoring affair as Welsh outfit Scarlets beat last year’s French champions Perpignan 43-34.
The turning point came when Perpignan kicker Jerome Porical was sin-binned in the 27th minute and during his absence the hosts ran in two tries through fullback Rhys Priestland. The second try was breathtaking, the ball passing through eight players before Priestland went in at the right hand corner.
Perpignan gamely kept on coming back but a couple of missed try opportunities by Vincent Candelon proved costly.
Leinster had no such troubles in their opening match of this season’s competition securing a 38-22 victory over French Top 14 leaders Racing-Metro.
The Irish side also picked up a bonus point for scoring five tries, though, they will be concerned by the sight of talismanic center Brian O’Driscoll going off in the 57th minute with what looked like a hamstring injury.
Indeed Leinster were wobbling at that point as the French side had reduced the gap to seven points after Albert Vulvuli’s try had been converted by Jerome Fillol.