A magical solo try to Australian flyer Drew Mitchell has helped seal an unprecedented hattrick of European titles for Toulon as they beat French rivals Clermont 24-18 in a gripping Champions Cup final in London.
Trailing for much of the first half on Saturday despite some classy input from Wallaby hopeful Matt Giteau, Toulon took control of the match via the boot of England’s Leigh Halfpenny – before Mitchell stepped up to stamp his mark on the title match.
With 10 minutes remaining, and Toulon clinging to a one-point lead, the 63-Test Wallaby accepted a pass 40 metres out from the tryline and proceeded to step around six would-be defenders on a brilliant sweeping run.
“I saw the gap initially, and to be fair I didn’t know if I’d have the legs at that point in the game, I was a bit short of a gallop,” Mitchell said.
“I was pretty happy to get through and obviously was able to beat a few defenders.
“It’s one of those things I’ll look back on and appreciate more, but it’s a brilliant feeling at the moment.”
With the ARU relaxing their selection criteria a fortnight ago by introducing the new 60-Test rule to open the door for the likes of Giteau and Mitchell to feature in this year’s World Cup, the brilliant try was a timely reminder to selectors of what talent is available in Europe.
Giteau, who has played mostly at inside centre for Toulon this season, was moved to No.10 in a bid to spark a star-studded backline – and slipped comfortably back into the role with several classy touches and incisive runs.
The 32-year-old Wallaby veteran also laid on a first-half try to French centre Mathieu Bastareaud to give Toulon a 16-11 lead at the break.
Clermont suffered a blow before kick-off, with Australian five-eighth Brock James ruled out after suffering a thigh injury in the warm-up, with France international Camille Lopez taking his place.