Henry Trinder claims two tries as European titans Toulon hit Gloucester for six
TOULON 42 GLOUCESTER RUGBY 17
MIGHTY Toulon flexed their European champions' muscles to swat six tries past Gloucester.
The moneyed elite French Top 14 club stalked a packed Stade Mayol with all the haughty delight the Heineken Cup holders should.
Nigel Davies’ Gloucester might have been outgunned, but they were neither overwhelmed nor vexed by their tribulations.
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Rugby director Davies wanted a European yardstick – so Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Giteau and Co promptly wielded said weapon with relish.
Four first-half tries from Virgile Bruni, Maxime Mermoz, Josua Tuisova and Delon Armitage put coach Bernard Laporte’s men in control.
Gloucester hit back through debutant Tavis Knoyle and Henry Trinder, but headed into the break 28-12 down and a man light, with captain Tom Savage in the sin-bin.
Steffon Armitage claimed the first score after the break, before Danie Rossouw ran in Toulon’s final score just past the hour.
The friendly clash broke up increasingly as the substitutes flooded to the field.
But new recruit Johnny Bentley had time to mark his debut with a clever crossfield chip that Trinder plucked from two covering defenders, to claim a well-worked second try.
Despite the defeat, Gloucester boss Davies said his men now have a fine gauge for the rest of their pre-season.
Davies explained: "I was very impressed with several aspects of our play.
"Of course no one wants to lose and the result is frustrating, but looking beyond that we have battled extremely well against the European champions and one of the best sides around.
"All the debutants impressed, and there are a number of areas where we can be reasonably pleased.
"We got exactly what I wanted out of this game in many ways: it is an excellent barometer of our progress."
Toulon were rampant from the off.
Bruni opened the scoring after the hosts rampaged down the left wing.
In a flash centre Mermoz doubled the try-count, scything a throat-slitting line off Wilkinson, who jockeyed at the line long enough to bisect the visiting defence.
Ominous could not begin to cover it.
But then Gloucester launched their tight game – and industrious Knoyle popped over.
Tuisova wriggled off the left flank and home for Toulon’s third try, with not even the quarter-hour complete.
Gloucester hit back again though, with a try of huge credit given the high-octane pressure from the hosts.
The close-season has done nothing to dent Rob Cook’s acumen.
The sharp full-back sent Trinder over in the right corner, with Burns converting to take the scores to 21-12.
Free-flowing Toulon flummoxed Gloucester’s attempts at clawing a foothold just four minutes later though.
Tuisova shredded the cover off his wing once again, leaving Tim Molenaar for dead in the 12 channel’s outside arc – and flipped up to Delon Armitage, who flopped over.
Knoyle’s clever tap penalty nearly caught Toulon unawares, but Cook could not quite recover his grubber in-goal, with the half-chance remaining unconverted.
Gloucester bullied Toulon into conceding a scrum penalty on their five-metre line.
The visitors chose to scrum again – only to concede a penalty in return.
Incensed Andrew Sheridan squared up to Yann Thomas – a sure sign the trainee tighthead was bearing up well.
Captain Savage was sin-binned with six minutes of the half to play, but despite home pressure, Gloucester edged to half-time without conceding further.
Promising field position came to nought in the second half’s opening exchanges, and after ten minutes Gloucester were again on the back foot.
Gloucester could do nothing about a penalty lineout catch-and-drive – and Steffon Armitage dotted down Toulon try number five.
The Cherry and Whites won an attacking 22 penalty lineout of their own minutes later.
May’s smart line off his wing almost outfoxed the hosts.
From a quick tap penalty Burns sent Kvesic across the line – but Gloucester’s scavenging openside could not quite take the ball with him.
By this time Toulon had emptied their superstar bench, starting to turn the scrummaging screw in the process.
But Bernard Laporte’s men could not get the better of Gloucester’s lineout.
Davies promised aerial set-piece improvement, and new recruit James Hudson already looks to have that in hand.
Just when Gloucester thought they had steadied again though, Burns misjudged a chip over the line.
Wilkinson gathered, Toulon countered – and Rossouw cantered home.
Replacement fly-half Johnny Bentley cut the line well after a counter from May.
And Trinder capped the move with his second try, when beating two covering defenders to Bentley’s clever chip into the right corner.
The game broke up considerably in the closing stages, and Gloucester almost took advantage for a fourth try.
Trinder’s clever angled reverse kick spun backwards on landing, almost allowing May to outfox the Toulon cover.
All that did was incite Toulon into throwing everything at a finish with a flourish.
The hosts attacked one last time, with zeal and venom.
But a loose pass under pressure in the Gloucester 22 allowed the Cherry and Whites respite at last.
Trinder collected, cleared and chased his deep hoof.
As weary chasers from both sides converged, the ball beat everyone into touch, to signal the final whistle.
TOULON: Tries: Bruni (2), Mermoz (7), Tuisova (14), D Armitage (25), S Armitage (52), Danie Rossouw (61). Cons: Wilkinson 6 (2, 7, 14, 25, 52, 61).
GLOUCESTER: Tries: Knoyle (9), Trinder 2 (21, 73). Cons: Burns (21).
TOULON: D Armitage, D Smith, M Mermoz (M Vincent, 62), M Giteau, J Tuisova, J Wilkinson (T Belan, 62), S Tillous-Borde (M Claassens, 53), A Sheridan (X Chiocci, 53), B Noribot (S Bruno, 53), C Hayman (M Castrogiovanni, 53), K Mikautadze, J Suta (D Rossouw, 53), V Bruni (J Van Niekirk, 53), S Armitage, C Masoe (G Pierrick, 53). Unused: L Chilachava, F Fresia.
GLOUCESTER: R Cook, S Monahan (M Tindall, 19), H Trinder, T Molenaar, J May, F Burns (J Bentley, 62), T Knoyle (R Boughton, 74), N Wood (D Murphy, 44 [T Heard, 74]), D Dawidiuk (D George, 56), Y Thomas (S Knight, 41), T Savage (capt), J Hudson, S Kalamafoni (W James, 41), M Kvesic, B Morgan (A Hazell, 55).
REFEREE: Luiz Alexandre (Languedoc).