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RC Toulon will play fellow three-time European champions Saracens in the EPCR Challenge Cup semi-finals after scraping a 19-18 win over London Irish at Stade Félix Mayol on Sunday.
A Charles Ollivon try in addition to 14 points from the boot of Louis Carbonel proved enough for Toulon, who had trailed for a large part of the game.
Irish crossed through Albert Tuisue early on and threatened a late recovery as teenager Henry Arundell scored a phenomenal individual try.
Irish were rewarded for a confident start when fly-half Paddy Jackson nudged a penalty over the posts, and they went further ahead on nine minutes as No.8 Tuisue crashed over following a rumbling maul.
Toulon were frustrated over the opening 20 minutes, and their disappointing start was typified by fly-half Carbonel slicing a penalty wide from a central position.
The hosts managed to get on the front foot just before the half hour mark, but Irish’s defence held firm – in particular their scrum which earned them a penalty five metres from their own line.
With five minutes to play in the half a high tackle from Jackson sparked a mass brawl, resulting in yellow cards for Toulon scrum-half Baptiste Serin and Irish hooker Agustin Creevy.
OH MYYYYY 🤩@henry_arundell take a bow 👏👏👏
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) May 8, 2022
Carbonel slotted a penalty resulting from Creevy’s offence to get Toulon on the board, and he doubled their points tally with another effort in the last action of the first period.
A third Carbonel three-pointer came four minutes into the second half, narrowing the gap to just one point.
Five minutes after Serin and Creevy returned to the fray, Irish were reduced to 14 again as flanker Juan Martin Gonzalez was sin binned for a high tackle on Carbonel.
Irish looked to have survived the period as they ran down the clock in Toulon’s half, but when Jackson nudged a penalty wide, Toulon raced down the pitch with some flowing rugby, flanker Ollivon then sneaking through a ruck and under the posts to dot down.
The score put Toulon six points ahead – an advantage they took into the final quarter of an hour after Jackson and Carbonel both kicked another penalty apiece.
Replacement full-back Arundell then scored a sensational try for Irish, running from just in front of his own try line and beating a series of Toulon defenders with some scintillating pace and footwork before diving over in the corner.
Jackson was unable to convert, however, and Toulon held onto their one-point lead over the remaining five minutes to book their place in the last four.