Wilkinson shrugs off Michalak hype in Toulon win
Jonny Wilkinson kicked all of Toulon’s points in a 21-15 Top 14 win over 2009 champions Perpignan on Saturday as the English veteran shrugged off the hype over the return to France of Frederic Michalak.
Wilkinson enjoyed a 100-percent success rate with the boot as did rival fly-half, Welsh international James Hook in an untidy season-opener which saw 29 penalties awarded in a frustrating stop-start encounter.
Michalak has returned to France after playing in South Africa, but he was left out of the game on Saturday by coach Bernard Laporte who opted to give the unpredictable player more time to build up his fitness.
That decision allowed Wilkinson to hammer home his credentials as the preferred option for Toulon, who were last season’s championship runners-up.
French international full-back Jerome Porical marked his Stade Francais debut in style by kicking 22 points in the 32-16 win over an ill-disciplined Montpellier.
In a match played in 30-degree heat at Paris’s Stade Charlety, Montpellier struggled without their Argentina stars Santiago Fernandez and Juan Figallo who were with the Pumas on international duty in South Africa.
They were also reduced to 13 men at one stage when skipper Fulgence Ouedraogo and full-back Jean-Baptiste Peyras were both sin-binned.
The sides were level 9-9 at the interval but Stade grabbed two second half tries through Australian fly-half Paul Warwick and hooker Remi Bonfils.
Biarritz were the only team in early Saturday action to secure a bonus point thanks to a 28-10 win over promoted Mont-de-Marsan which put them on top of the standings.
Damien Traille and Iain Balshaw grabbed tries before the interval with Wenceslas Lauret adding a third in the 65th minute.
Benoit Baby’s last-minute try ensured the bonus-point win for Biarritz.
On Friday, defending champions Toulouse were indebted to Fijian winger Timoci Matanavou and giant Tongan forward Edwin Maka for sealing their French Top 14 season-opening 23-22 win over Castres.
The 19-time champions were trailing 22-18 with nine minutes left when they snatched victory at their Ernest Wallon home.
Maka released fellow replacement Matanavou with a sharp pass and the winger dived in for his side’s only try of the night, the score allowed to stand despite a hint of a forward pass.
“I am particularly proud of the mental strength of my players,” said Toulouse coach Guy Noves.
“Once again when we were in difficulty, and up against it at the end of the match, but we found the resources to get through. It’s a win that undoubtedly will be very important later.”
Castres’s South African scrum-half Ryan Kockott scored all of his team’s 22 points.