Toulon beat Clermont to become the first team to win a hat-trick of European titles
Last Updated: 04/05/15 11:10am
Toulon wrote their names in the rugby record books by claiming three successive European crowns after beating Clermont 24-18 in a thrilling Champions Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday.
Australia wing Drew Mitchell's brilliant solo try 11 minutes from time ultimately settled the outcome of a see-saw match as Toulon defeated Clermont in the senior European final for the second time in three years.
Wales star Leigh Halfpenny kicked four penalties and converted centre Mathieu Bastareaud's try on the stroke of half-time, before wing Drew Mitchell sealed victory through a stunning solo effort 10 minutes from time.
Clermont led 11-3 midway through the first period after centre Wesley Fofana claimed an opportunist try and Camille Lopez booted two penalties in front of a 56,000 crowd.
But their woeful record in major finals ultimately continued, despite a fine 63rd-minute try by England full-back Nick Abendanon that Lopez converted.
That try, though, was eclipsed by Mitchell, who broke six tackles during a weaving run to the line which spread-eagled Clermont's defence.
Clermont have now lost 13 times on the biggest domestic and European stages – 10 French Championship final losses, two European Cup finals and one European Challenge Cup final – as ruthless Toulon closed in on another league and cup double.
Clermont had no answer when Toulon upped the tempo - both in pace and terms of power – and Abendanon's score came after a woeful clearance by wing Bryan Habana that the former Bath player gathered, then finished magnificently as he chipped over Toulon's last line of defence, gathered and scored.
But Toulon, with Mitchell at the forefront during a gripping finish, had enough in the tank to secure another memorable European success.
Clermont served immediate notice of their attacking intent when England World Cup hopeful Abendanon delivered a brilliant pass to wing Naipolioni Nalaga, but Nalaga lost his radar as the line approached and threw a wild inside pass.
Clermont continued to look the more threatening team, though, and two Lopez penalties in quick succession gave them a deserved 6-0 lead as Toulon found themselves on the back foot.
Halfpenny slotted a 17th-minute penalty but Clermont continued in the ascendancy, and their territorial dominance was rewarded after 25 minutes when Parra charged down his opposite number Sebastien Tillous-Borde's attempted clearance and the ball bounced kindly for Fofana who outstripped Toulon's defence to give Clermont a deserved 11-6 advantage.
The stadium clock showed that time was up in the first half but Abendanon tried a chip and chase that resulted in Toulon gaining a half-chance that they duly accepted. Chris Masoe gathered the kick and brushed off Abendanon in midfield to set Toulon up.
Mitchell also played his part, but it was largely a case of patient recycling before Bastareaud powered over from close range, with Halfpenny's conversion giving Toulon a 16-11 half-time lead.
Another Halfpenny penalty made it 19-11, but Clermont grabbed a lifeline when Abendanon strutted his stuff, which set up a pulsating finale.
Mitchell, though, administered the final scoring act of a quality final, and Toulon once again took silverware back to the Cote d'Azur.