Glasgow Warriors 19-43 Toulon: French club win first ever Challenge Cup title after demolishing Scots in Dublin
After Challenge Cup final defeats in 2010, 2012, 2020 and 2022, Toulon finally secure title to sit alongside their three Champions Cup triumphs in 2013, 2014 and 2015; Baptiste Serin (two), Sergio Parisse, Jiuta Wainiqolo, Waisea Nayacalevu, Ihaia West scored tries at the Aviva Stadium
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 19/05/23 10:22pm
Toulon claimed a first Challenge Cup title in their history at the fifth time of asking, as they comprehensively dispatched of first-time European finalists Glasgow Warriors 43-19 at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.
Scrum-half Baptiste Serin (two), No 8 Sergio Parisse, wing Jiuta Wainiqolo, centre Waisea Nayacalevu and fly-half Ihaia West scored tries for the French club, while Glasgow wings Kyle Steyn and Sebastian Cancelliere notched scores in defeat.
Toulon, three time Champions Cup winners in 2013, 2014 and 2015, had lost four previous finals in Europe’s secondary competition in 2010, 2012, 2020 and last year to Lyon in Marseille, but toasted a richly-deserved victory in 2023.
Glasgow’s appearance in front of a crowd of nearly 32,000 was just the second time in history a Scottish club had appeared in a European final, after Edinburgh’s 2015 defeat to Gloucester at the Stoop, but they were physically dominated in contact and at the scrum, while their lineout performance proved disastrous.
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Toulon lost starting fly-half Dan Biggar to a head injury in the opening moments, but put it behind them as the electric Serin scored a superb try all of his own making in the fifth minute: picking and darting quickly from a ruck, grubber-kicking through with his left, retrieving the bouncing ball himself, and holding off the tackle of full-back Ollie Smith to just ground the point of the ball.
Serin continued to cause Glasgow all manner of concern with his quick feet and dynamic running, but though the French side were clearly in the ascendency, a second score alluded them, until the legendary Parisse took full advantage of a fatal Glasgow error in the 19th minute: Scrappy lineout ball in the 22 was compounded by a knock-on a yard from the try-line to give up possession, from where quick-ball saw the Italian back-row charge under the sticks.
Serin tapped over the simple extras for a 14-0 lead, but the Glasgow response was hearty, breaking down the right through Cancelliere, who then kicked inside for chasing scrum-half George Horne. Though the latter got his boot to the ball to kick ahead and into in-goal, he was then taken out by defending full-back Cheslin Kolbe – referee Wayne Barnes decreeing the Springbok was already committed and so legal.
The Glasgow lineout was enduring a horror show though. After Biggar’s replacement Ihaia West kicked out on the full, another malfunction saw Charles Ollivon pick up an overthrow, before Fijian centre Nayacalevu did huge damage, breaking past the tackle of Sione Tuipulotu to come within a couple of metres of the try-line, where Serin dummied and sniped to score his second try.
Yet another Glasgow lineout failure saw possession passed up again after the half-hour – this time near the Toulon 22 – before flanker Sione Vailanu came within a metre of scoring a try soon after via a rolling maul – momentum that was ended when tighthead Zander Fagerson soon knocked on attempting a pick-and-go near the try-line.
Toulon’s main spark, Serin, failed to re-emerge after half-time having suffered a serious leg injury in the final play of the opening period, as Glasgow started much better: twice putting Toulon under massive pressure deep in the 22, but held out both times as the French side first forced a turnover maul, and then Cancelliere knocked on as Glasgow looked certain to score out wide in the second move.
An exquisite Kolbe 50:22 broke up that spell of dominance, and when back in the right zone territorially, Toulon first added three more points via a Benoit Paillaugue penalty, before they appeared to have a fourth try after a dreadful Glasgow lineout throw deep in their own 22 – throwing long beyond the tail in search of No 8 Jack Dempsey, but picked off by Ollivon and grounded. A TMO review granted the Warriors a reprieve, though, as Toulon were adjudged offside before the throw came in.
On 55 minutes, a lineout move finally came to fruition for the Scottish club, as after securing ball, they peeled back towards the blindside where powerful wing Steyn was waiting to sprint on, dummy and step inside Wainiqolo to finish well.
Tuipulotu criminally knocked on the restart, however, and Toulon were ruthless in punishing an error again as Kolbe linked up with Wainiqolo via a clever reverse pass, for the Fijian to crash through against the grain past several Glasgow jerseys.
On 64 minutes, Toulon then produced as good a team try as could be put together – with handling, offloading, breakdown supremacy and movement of the highest order before Nayacalevu burst forward and reached out to score after a stunning spell of attack.
Glasgow responded with two tries before the end – Cancelliere leaping into space to score, and Steyn wrestling over for his second, either side of 39-year-old Parisse receiving a standing ovation from supporters of both sides as he departed – but Toulon had the final say as West displayed his exceptional pace to sear in for a sixth Toulon try.