Toulon gain revenge in scrappy Top 14 encounter
Toulon's French flanker Virgile Bruni (right) vies with Castres' Rory Kockott during their French Top 14 rugby union match on February 15, 2014 in Toulon - by Bertrand Langlois
A largely dull encounter -- the first since Toulon head coach Bernard Laporte received a long suspension for virulently criticising a referee -- saw each side score a try apiece in the second-half with the champions grabbing a defensive bonus point at the death through a penalty by South African scrum-half Rory Kockott.
Victory for Toulon sees them level on 51 points with Castres, four points adrift of leaders Clermont -- who lost to Grenoble on Friday -- although Stade Francais can go top later if they beat Brive.
Kockott had added extra spice to the encounter by announcing shortly before the match that he had revised his decision to join Toulon next season and would stay with Castres which resulted in him being booed every occasion he had the ball.
"Did it affect me? No not at all it means that you must be doing something right, it's normal," said the 27-year-old, who was the leading points scorer in last season's Top 14 and the player of the year.
Toulon took an early lead through former England star Jonny Wilkinson, as he landed a long range penalty in the ninth minute and he added another three minutes later.
Kockott missed with his first penalty attempt while Wilkinson made it 9-0 just before the half hour.
However, Wilkinson then missed a penalty himself but Kockott failed to punish him for that by sending his second penalty wide.
The game failed to gain in quality even after the half-time break with very little happening in terms of fluent attacking rugby apart from one incisive run into the Castres 22 by Toulon's Samoan-born wing David Smith.
Toulon coaching staff sent on France centre Mathieu Bastareaud -- who had been the subject of a furious war of words about his playing between France coach Philippe Saint-Andre and Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal -- just before the hour mark to try and add some punch to their attack.
However, the barrel-chested back failed to make much of an impression and he revealed afterwards that he was struggling with a painful right shoulder.
"I don't think I will have time to have it looked at here as I have a flight to catch," he said. "It is worrying me but I can't argue about playing as Toulon are my employers."
- Tense finish -
Castres finally sparked some excitement into the match as Kockott drove deep inside Toulon territory and when the ball was subsequently worked back Remy Tales passed to wing Remy Grosso, who had come in off his wing and burst through Matt Giteau's tackle to touch down -- Kockott converted to bring the score back to 9-7.
However, Toulon reacted immediately and Giteau made up for his missed tackle to sell a dummy and break the Castres line of defence to go over himself -- Wilkinson converted for 16-7 with 15 minutes remaining.
Kockott ensured a tense finish as he landed a penalty with 10 minutes remaining to put them within a converted try of victory -- Wilkinson replied in kind to restore their nine point lead at 19-10.
Wilkinson limped off shortly afterwards, and had strapping wound round his left knee, and the visitors ensured they at least left with something when Kockott landed a penalty with two minutes remaining.