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Heineken Cup: Jonny Wilkinson inspires Toulon triumph
Jonny Wilkinson kicked Toulon to their first Heineken Cup final with a flawless display in a 24-12 victory over Saracens on the familiar turf of Twickenham.
The former England fly-half kicked seven penalties from seven attempts and slotted over a trademark drop-goal in the closing stages to wrap up victory for the French Top 14 leaders.
Their Aviva Premiership counterparts were never able to find any rhythm against the suffocating Toulon defence and had to settle for four Owen Farrell penalties in a try-less contest.
Farrell edged Saracens ahead inside two minutes after a high shot from Danie Roussouw, but from the re-start Matt Stevens went in at the side and Wilkinson levelled at 3-3.
A rare break from Delon Armitage got Toulon close to the line but Wilkinson knocked on under a heavy tackle from Brad Barritt, only for the French side to win a penalty from the resulting scrum which Wilkinson kicked.
The only clean break of the half arrived on 15 minutes as a short inside ball from Matt Giteau sent Alexis Palisson slicing through the Saracens midfield.
The centre chipped for the corner and the ball bounced agonisingly out of Armitage's grasp, but a late hit on Palisson after his kick gave Wilkinson another three.
Farrell was next to kick, this time following a scrum penalty, but again Saracens infringed at the re-start and again Wilkinson punished them.
A hack forward by Strettle had Chris Ashton chasing and hoping but Armitage reached the bouncing ball first and touched down in goal, although when Mathieu Bastareaud was isolated and held on, Farrell cut the deficit to 9-12.
Bastareaud was again penalised two minutes from the half but Farrell was wide from halfway, the only miss by either kicker in the match.
Another scrum penalty gave Wilinson a simple kick just after the re-start but when Roussouw was harshly sin-binned for a marginal high shot on Mako Vunipola, Farrell got Saracens back to within three points and they sensed a momentum shift.
The best chance of the game arrived shortly afterwards as a Vunipola charge set up attacking pressure 10 metres from the Toulon line. With a three on one overlap Farrell attempted a long scoring pass to Kelly Brown, but it was clearly forward and was rightly brought back.
That was Sarries' 'who knows?' moment but five minutes later Wilkinson kicked his best penalty of the day from inside his own half.
There was an element of panic in Saracens' play in the final quarter, but Wilkinson was calmness personified as he slotted a drop-goal and then a penalty to ease his side to a final against French rivals Clermont in Dublin next month.
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|European Rugby Champions Cup|
|Sunday 25th January|
|European Rugby Champions Cup|
|Munster 65 - 10 Sale Sharks|
|Clermont Auvergne 18 - 6 Saracens|
|Bath 20 - 15 Glasgow|
|Montpellier 27 - 26 Toulouse|
|Saturday 24th January|
|Scarlets 3 - 26 Toulon|
|Ulster 26 - 7 Leicester|
|Northampton 8 - 32 Racing Metro 92|
|Benetton Treviso 23 - 20 Ospreys|
|Castres 19 - 47 Harlequins|
|Wasps 20 - 20 Leinster|
|Sunday 18th January|
|Ospreys 9 - 20 Northampton|
|Racing Metro 92 53 - 7 Benetton Treviso|
|Toulouse 18 - 35 Bath|
|Glasgow 21 - 10 Montpellier|
|Saturday 17th January|
|Harlequins 3 - 23 Wasps|
|Sale Sharks 13 - 22 Clermont Auvergne|
|Leinster 50 - 8 Castres|
|Toulon 60 - 22 Ulster|
|Saracens 33 - 10 Munster|
|Friday 16th January|
|Leicester 40 - 23 Scarlets|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com