Newcastle Falcons’ 100 per cent record in Pool Two of the Amlin Challenge Cup came to an end with defeat in the hostile Stade Felix Mayol on Saturday night.
A travelling army of Falcons fans witnessed a gutsy display from their side but the French Top 14 outfit proved too strong with Christian Loamanu (2), Geoffroy Messina, Eifion Lewis-Roberts and David Smith all crossing the whitewash to secure a bonus-point triumph.
The northeasterners now turn their attention to the Aviva Premiership with the Boxing Day clash at Sale Sharks and the New Year’s Eve showdown at home to Northampton Saints both imminent.
Toulon was a frenzy of activity in the build up to the game on Saturday with locals draping their team’s colours in shops, restaurants and bars.
Many fans arrived at the stadium early all keen to sample the atmosphere and get the best seat in the house for this eagerly anticipated encounter.
With both sides out on the field it was time for France’s very own Haka ‘Pilou-Pilou’ to get the adrenaline pumping through the veins.
In the opening exchanges of the game Alan Tait’s men had to withstand heavy pressure with the hosts’ frontline powering over the gain line to set the platform for the backs.
Jonny Wilkinson’s decision to kick to touch rather than go for a shot at goal five minutes in highlighted Toulon’s attacking intent.
But to the Falcons’ credit they stood strong to a barrage of attacks restricting Wilkinson to just a penalty success on eight minutes.
The Tyneside outfit responded well and were soon on the charge after James Hudson won possession against the throw at the line-out.
A series of drives from Euan Murray, Andrew van der Heijden and Joe Graham edged the visitors closer to the line before referee Peter Allan awarded the visitors a penalty on 16 minutes.
Manning kept his head to arrow his kick through the sticks despite a chorus of boos from the terraces.
On 19 minutes Messina edged his side in front touching down in the corner despite the valiant defensive effort of Luke Fielden. Messina showed a clean set of heels to sprint down the near touchline and squeeze in at the corner.
Wilkinson was unable to convert and Toulon led 8-3.
Again the Falcons responded in positive fashion and should have been awarded a penalty try 10 minutes later when Manning’s grubber kick into Toulon’s in-goal area was palmed out of play by a home defender.
Winger Christian Loamanu added insult to injury four minutes from the break with a well-worked try on the far side. Quick hands in the Toulon backline provided the ammunition for the Toulon flyer to sprint 30 metres and power himself over the line. Wilkinson added the extras for a 15-3 advantage.
And on the stroke of half-time Mathieu Bastareaud scooped up a loose ball to feed Loamanu in for his second try of the night.
Wilkinson converted for a 22-3 interval lead.
On 44 minutes Lewis Roberts bulldozed his way over the line for a converted score before David Smith extended the home side’s lead on the hour mark.
Smith took a looping pass out wide and skipped past his marker to ease in at the corner. Wilkinson’s expert boot made it 36-3.
The travelling support did have something to savour from their weekend travels when Corne Uys shrugged off four would-be tacklers to dive over the line.
Will Welch was the architect, scooting through a gap in Toulon’s rearguard to offload to Uys who had a clear run to the line.
Manning held his nerve to convert and give a full time score of 36-10.
Tickets for the Aviva Premiership match against Northampton Saints on New Year’s Eve (kick-off 2pm) are available by calling 0871 226 6060 or click here to purchase online.
Toulon: Lapyeyre; Loamanu, Bastareaud, Messina, Palisson; Wilkinson, Magnaval; Roberts, Ivaldi, Hayman, Samson, Chesney, Senatore, Gunther, Armitage.
Replacements: D Smith for Loamanu (41), Kubriashvili for Roberts (59), Orioli for Ivaldi (71), Emmanuelli for Hayman (59), Schofield for Samson (67), Tawake for Armitage (62).
Not Used: Dumora, Cibray.
Newcastle: Goosen; Eves, Uys, Helleur, Fitzpatrick; Manning, Pasqualin; Shiells, Graham, Murray, Hudson, Van der Heijden, Wilson, Welch, M Mayhew.
Replacements: Catterick for Goosen (63), Vickers for Graham (51), Frazier for Murray (50), Swinson for Hudson (41), Hogg for van der Heijden (51).
Not Used: Wells, Pilgrim, Fielden.
Ref: Peter Allan (Scotland)