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We will have a new name on the European Rugby Challenge Cup trophy on Friday night as three-time European Cup winners RC Toulon take on maiden finalists Bristol Bears at Stade Maurice-David in what looks sure to be a gripping final.
Both sides breezed through the pool stages before having to battle in their respective knockout stage clashes. Bristol put 56 points on Dragons in the last eight but were taken to 100 minutes against Bordeaux-Begles, eventually running out 37-20 winners.
RC Toulon on the other hand secured the No.1 seed before coming from 6-0 down to edge out Scarlets 11-6 in the last eight. They would cruise past Leicester Tigers in the semi-finals, coming out 34-19 victors at Stade Mayol.
You can watch Friday night’s Challenge Cup final on FR4, BT Sport and beIN SPORTS from 20:00 (UK and Irish time).
Bristol Bears: 1st, Pool 4, 26 points.
RC Toulon: 1st, Pool 2, 28 points.
Knockout stage results
Bristol Bears: QF – Bristol Bears 56 Dragons 17, SF – Bristol Bears 37 Bordeaux-Begles 20 (AET)
RC Toulon: QF – RC Toulon 11 Scarlets 6, SF – RC Toulon 34 Leicester Tigers 19
Bristol Bears wins: 2
RC Toulon wins: 0
— Challenge Cup (@ERChallengeCup) October 13, 2020
Leading 2019/20 points-scorers
Bristol Bears: Callum Sheedy (78), Ioan Lloyd (26), Piers O’Conor & Will Capon (20)
RC Toulon: Anthony Belleau (40), Louis Carbonel (32), Baptiste Serin, Gabin Villiere and Masivesi Dakuwaqa (20)
- Bristol Bears make six changes from the side that was beaten by Wasps in last weekend’s Gallagher Premiership semi-finals, with the likes of Alapati Leiua and Harry Randall returning to the backline. Dave Attwood will line up against his former side, while Dan Thomas, Yann Thomas and Kyle Sinckler are also included. EPCR European Player of the Year nominee Semi Radradra starts at outside centre. A late change also sees Joe Joyce coming into the side for Steven Luatua.
- Hooker Anthony Etrillard will captain Toulon as they go in search of a first Challenge Cup crown. Charles Ollivon, Raphael Lakafia and Sergio Parisse make up a devastating back-row whilst Baptiste Serin and Louis Carbonel are the half-back partnership.
- Pat Lam (Bristol Bears): “This is massive for us; we’ve worked hard for this. Right from the beginning, to have some tangible silverware would be the start of a process of trying to do this year in, year out. This week has all been about taking our learnings from what happened last week and then channelling all of the excitement of a final into making sure we tick off a lot of boxes, and making sure we are ready to go and get the performance that will give us the best chance of winning that silverware.”
- Tane Takulua (RC Toulon): “A trophy would mean a lot for the team. It would bring more confidence to the club in what we are trying to achieve this year and next year. I’m really happy we made it to the final. I’m really looking forward to it. It would be good to go out and win this cup. When we knew we were going to be playing against Bristol, we got our heads round them and learned a little bit more about them, and what they’re capable of.”
- Bristol Bears and RC Toulon have met twice previously in the Challenge Cup during the pool stage in 2008/09. Bristol won 39-11 at home and 37-19 at Stade Mayol.
- Bristol or Toulon will become the 16th different club to win the Challenge Cup. Bristol have qualified for the final for the first time while Toulon have reached this stage twice previously, losing to Cardiff Blues in 2010 and to Biarritz Olympique in 2012.
- This will be the ninth Anglo-French final in the Challenge Cup with Premiership clubs leading the head-to-head by five wins to three, however, the TOP 14 have won each of the last two such finals.
- Bristol (W7, D1) and Toulon (W8) are undefeated in this season’s tournament and for both clubs, it represents their longest unbeaten run in the competition.
- Bristol and Toulon have conceded just 1.3 tries per game this season, fewer than any other club in the competition. Bristol also top the charts for points per game (37.8).
- Bristol have averaged the most carries (150), metres gained (562), clean breaks (18.3), defenders beaten (32.9), passes (223) and offloads (12.3) to date, and they’ve also won the joint most turnovers (7.3), level with Toulon who have the best tackle success rate this season (88%).
- Bristol’s Luke Morahan has made the most clean breaks (21) and the most metres (499) of any player in the competition.
- Toulon’s Baptiste Serin has been directly involved in more tries than any other player (10), scoring three and recording a competition-high seven assists.
- Gabin Villière (RC Toulon) has made 329 metres from his 24 carries, and his average gain of 13.7 metres is the best rate of any player to make 15+ carries. Villière has also won eight turnovers this season, the most of any back and second most overall behind Jack Willis of Wasps (10).
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Bristol Bears put in a blistering second half display to secure a 32-19 victory over RC Toulon and clinch a first European Rugby Challenge Cup title on Friday night.
22 points from the boot of fly-half Callum Sheedy and tries from Harry Randall and Max Malins proved enough to see off a Toulon side who led by six at the break.
It was Bristol who made a fantastic start, with Semi Radradra and Siale Piutau combining on the left wing before picking out Randall and he sprinted clear of a stunned Toulon line to dot down inside 15 seconds.
Sheedy made the conversion and extended the lead to 10 with a sideline penalty kick after just four minutes.
Just a bit of individual brilliance from Max Malins in European final 🙌
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) October 16, 2020
It was a careless pass from Bristol that allowed Toulon a way back into the match as they collected and shifted play from the centre to out wide, finding Bryce Heem who sprinted clear and dotted down in the corner.
Louis Carbonel then slotted over to make it 10-10 and despite Bristol having two tries chalked off by the TMO, it was the French side who led by six at the break as their No.10 popped over another pair of three-pointers.
At the start of the second period, the two sides exchanged penalty kicks before Bristol managed to get level with a pair of successful kicks from the tee, making it 19-19 on the hour mark.
They've done it! 🙌@BristolBears are Challenge Cup champions 🏆
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) October 16, 2020
But it was a stunning try from Max Malins that would turn the match in the favour of the English side.
He produced a devastating step to get past the Toulon defender with relative ease and had the pace to quicken away from the chasing pack and score in the corner.
Sheedy made the conversion to make it a seven-point game and after nailing back-to-back penalty kicks in the final 10 minutes, that would be enough for Bristol to earn a famous first European success.