Toulon pass up late penalty - and lose by a point

(File, Gallo Images)
(File, Gallo Images)

Paris - Toulon opted not to kick a penalty with three minutes left and lost 26-25 at home to Newcastle in the European Champions Cup on Sunday.

Against the bottom team in the English Premiership, Toulon, the three-time European champions, were a point and a man down when they won a penalty well inside the Newcastle half, but chose to kick for touch.

A try would have given them at least a four-point cushion and a bonus point for a fourth try. Instead, the attack died when Sebastien Taofifenua dropped the ball and Newcastle held on to win.

"The decision at end of the match comes from me because we were playing well and pressing and we need confidence, it would have done us good," said Toulon coach Patrice Collazo.

"Today we can say it's the fault of Collazo."

Big-spending Toulon invested heavily again in the summer, but after seven rounds of the Top 14 have only two victories. Yet their opponents had started the season even worse, with just one win in six league games.

Toulon took the lead after just 22 seconds, Newcastle scrum half Micky Young's clearing kick was charged down by Romain Taofifenua who touched down.

After that, even though they scored three tries to two, indiscipline cost Toulon, as they incurred three yellow cards to one for the visitors.

And while they scored tries twice while playing with 14 men, they could not manage it a third time at the end.

"We cannot afford to play 30 minutes with 14 in the European Cup," said Raphael Lakafia, one of Toulon's try scorers.

"It's a shame, we made a very good start, we have to kill the match, we led 10-0, but we did not know how to do it."

One of the yellow cards, when Daniel Ikpefan tried to stop Sinoti Sinoti touching down with a neck-high tackle, turned a possible try in the corner into a penalty try that did not need converting.

Newcastle also kicked five penalties to two by Toulon, the last shortly after one of the summer's star signings Julian Savea became the third Toulon player sent to the sin bin.

Presented with a simple chance to take a narrow lead, Newcastle did not think twice and are second in Pool 4 to Montpellier on points difference.

In 24 previous home games in the competition, Toulon had only lost once at home, to Saracens two years ago.

In the other late game on Sunday, all the points came in the first half as 2016 and 2017 champions Saracens ground out a 13-3 victory against the Warriors in Glasgow to top Pool 3 with Cardiff Blues.

South African Michael Rhodes, the lone uncapped player in the Saracens starting line-up, scored the only try of the game.

Earlier, Danny Cipriani kicked 14 points to help Gloucester to a 19-14 victory over French champions Castres.

The mercurial flyhalf, axed last month from Eddie Jones' England training squad, booted four penalties and converted Callum Braley's first half try.

Four days before he announces his squad for next month's games against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia, Jones was in the crowd at Kingsholm to see Cipriani mix excellent kicking, some inspired passing with the occasional error of judgement.

"I thought Danny was good," Gloucester head coach Johann Ackermann said.

But he added that Cipriani was behind Owen Farrell and George Ford in the England pecking order.

"Eddie has made up his mind that in Owen and Ford he has guys that play the way he wants to play, and then only when he needs Danny will he bring him in.

"How many guys can you pick in one position?" Ackermann asked.

"The only thing for me is that Danny does as well as he can for us and does his talking on the field."

Castres fought back to grab a valuable defensive bonus point in a Pool 2 that also features Exeter and Munster, who drew 10-all on Saturday.

Cardiff, who won the second-tier Challenge Cup last season, ran out comfortable 30-21 victors over Lyon.

Kiwi-born Gareth Anscombe produced a man-of-the-match performance from full-back in a timely outing ahead of Wales' November internationals.

Anscombe crossed for a memorable 55-metre try and kicked three penalties and three conversions.

European Champions Cup results on Sunday, the opening weekend of the 2018/19 season:

Pool 2

Gloucester (ENG) 19 Castres (FRA) 14

Pool 3

Lyon (FRA) 21 Cardiff (WAL) 30

Glasgow (SCO) 3 Saracens (ENG) 13 

Pool 5

Toulon (FRA) 25 Newcastle (ENG) 26 

Played on Saturday:

Pool 1

Bath (ENG) 20 Toulouse (FRA) 22

Pool 5

Montpellier (FRA) 21 Edinburgh (SCO) 15 

Pool 2

Exeter (ENG) 10  Munster (IRL) 10

Pool 4

Scarlets (WAL) 13 Racing 92 (FRA) 14

Ulster (IRL) 24 Leicester (ENG)10

Played on Friday:

Pool 1

Leinster (IRL) 52 Wasps (ENG) 3

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