Wilkinson piles on the agony for Exiles

JONNY Wilkinson inflicted more misery on London Irish as he guided Toulon to a Heineken Cup victory at the Madejski Stadium in Munster’s Pool Three.

The England fly-half kicked four penalties and a conversion to Rudi Wulf’s brilliantly executed try as Toulon condemned Irish to a sixth straight defeat. Toby Booth’s side had reduced the arrears to 13-10 with a try from Delon Armitage and a Ryan Lamb penalty but in the end they had to settle for a losing bonus point.

Irish are not out of the qualification hunt yet – but they will need to end their losing run in the south of France next weekend, which will be a tall order.

Toulon should have won far more comfortably having wasted three try-scoring opportunities and London Irish boss Toby Booth believes Wilkinson is getting better with age.

“He didn’t look on the decline to me,” said Booth. “In a tight game they have a 100% kicker and we don’t. That is the nature of it. He stopped George Stowers at full bore 10 metres from the line, and (he did the same to) Seilala Mapasua.

“He is probably like fine wine. He is actually getting better.”

Toulon’s Joe Van Niekerk, the former South Africa international, added: “The guy is a genius. He is constantly kicking three points and keeping the scoreboard ticking. What more do you want from a 10 who keeps it rolling, puts pressure on opposition and we can build from the back of it from there.”

Meanwhile, Wasps kept their Heineken Cup quarter-final hopes alive by subduing Newport Gwent Dragons – but rugby director Tony Hanks admitted he was left concerned by a poor performance.

Tries from backs Ben Jacobs, David Lemi and Tom Varndell underpinned a 23-16 Pool Six success at Cardiff City Stadium.

It was Wasps’ fifth successive win in all competitions and leaves them just two points behind group favourites and Heineken Cup holders Toulouse. But Wasps had to defend for most of the second half, with the Dragons seeing two tries ruled out by television match official Iain Ramage.

“The performance was not at a level we would expect,” said Hanks. “We defended a lot more in the second half than we would have liked, and we made some poor decisions. Our performance, in general, concerned me.

“The Dragons forced some errors, but I lost count of how many high balls we dropped.”

LONDON IRISH: D. Armitage, Joseph, Seveali’i, Mapusua, Tagicakibau, Lamb, Hodgson, Dermody, Buckland, Rautenbach, Kennedy, Casey, Thorpe, S. Armitage, Hala’ufia.

Replacements: Ojo for Tagicakibau (71), Bowden for Lamb (71), Allinson for Hodgson (74), Corbisiero for Dermody (74), Ion for Rautenbach (65), Roche for Casey (72), Stowers for Hala’ufia (54). Not Used: Blaney.

TOULON: Lapyeyre, Sackey, Messina, Lovobalavu, Wulf, Wilkinson, Mignoni, Taumoepeau, Bruno, Hayman, Schofield, Chesney, Missoup, El Abd, van Niekerk.

Replacements: Loamanu for Messina (77), May for Wilkinson (77), Magnaval for Mignoni (68), Basteres for Taumoepeau (57), Ivaldi for Bruno (57), Merabet for Hayman (74), Suta for Schofield (62), Sourice for El Abd (75).

Referee: N Owens (WRFU).

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