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European Challenge Cup Final Prediction: Toulon v Glasgow Warriors

Elusive glory beckons for either Toulon or the Glasgow Warriors in the European Challenge Cup final at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Friday.

European Challenge Cup Final Toulon Warriors

Elusive glory beckons for either Toulon or the Glasgow Warriors in the European Challenge Cup final at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Friday (21:00 kick-off SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Though they have three European Champions Cup titles and four TOP 14 crowns to their credit, Toulon have never won the European Challenge Cup. This despite the French giants having featured in four previous finals, including last year’s decider, which saw them succumb 30-12 to Lyon.

Vengeance was sweet when they ended Lyon’s reign with a 48-23 quarter-final win and they went on to blank Benetton 23-0 in the semis to earn a fifth crack at the silverware. A big fish in a small pond, Toulon should, given their pedigree, be playing in the European top flight, and are one win away from earning that right once more. 

Glasgow, in contrast, have broken new ground by reaching their first-ever European Challenge Cup final. The Scottish club had never progressed beyond the quarter-finals prior to this season and are daring to dream after a 31-21 last-eight win over the Lions and a 35-17 semi-final triumph away from home over the Scarlets. 

Aside from clinching a historic European crown, the Warriors also want to give six of their stalwarts – Ryan Wilson, Sam Johnson, Lewis Bean, Cole Forbes, Simon Berghan and Cameron Neild – the perfect send-off. 

South African-born coach Franco Smith has transformed the Warriors into a potent attacking team. They’ve made more carries (811), beaten more defenders (177), scored more tries (36) and racked up more points (246) than any other side this season. 

They’ve also made the most tackles (926), which shows they don’t shy away from hard work and possess the necessary grit to succeed on the European stage. Discipline has been an issue for them, though, one that’s seen them concede a tournament-leading 86 penalties. 

They would’ve taken vital lessons from their disappointing 14-5 United Rugby Championship quarter-final loss to Munster at home last time out, the biggest being the importance of making the most of their opportunities after letting a number of try-scoring chances go begging.  

Worrying for the Warriors is the fact that they’ve had a break of almost three weeks since that last outing, whereas Toulon mentor Pierre Mignoni fielded mixed and matched teams in losing efforts against European Champions Cup holders La Rochelle and Racing 92 on the domestic front over the past two weeks. 

Toulon have put all of their eggs in the European basket. Piloted by Wales and British & Irish Lions flyhalf Dan Biggar, they’re tactically astute, hard-edged and hungry to finally get the monkey off their backs. 

They have exceptional talent in the back row in former France captain Charles Ollivon, who’s been cleared to play after his sending-off in the semi-final against Benetton was overturned following an independent disciplinary hearing, Italian legend Sergio Parisse and Argentina’s Facundo Isa, with South African-born Cornell du Preez also doing good things at the club. 

Les Bleus prop Dany Priso is a powerhouse in the front row, Duncan Paia’aua and Waisea Nayacalevu form a formidable centre pairing and they have strike power aplenty out wide in Springbok pocket rocket Cheslin Kolbe and French international Gabin Villiere. Glasgow boast plenty of Test stars as well, but Toulon have an edge across the spread. 

This is the one game Toulon have targeted in both competitions since the start of the season and are rightful favourites. They’re sharper, have more finals experience and a general in Biggar to finally get them over the line in a hard-fought contest. 

Prediction: Toulon by 9.

Suggested Bet: Toulon -6.5 at 1.90.

Bonus Notes

• Toulon will be appearing in a record fifth European Challenge Cup final on Friday evening. The three-time European Champions Cup winners have never lifted the Challenge Cup, so they could become the fifth club in history after Bath, Northampton Saints, Wasps and Leinster to win both EPCR titles.

• Glasgow Warriors have reached an EPCR final for the first time in their history, and they will be the second Scottish club to play in a Challenge Cup decider following in the footsteps of Edinburgh in 2015.

• Seventeen clubs to date have won the Challenge Cup, and either Glasgow or Toulon will become the 18th on Friday night.

• Warriors back row, Jack Dempsey, leads the tournament statistics in carries (68) and defenders beaten (30).

• Toulon’s Sergio Parisse, Waisea Vuidravuwalu and Jérémy Sinzelle could each be in line for a second Challenge Cup title after all three were part of the Stade Francais side which defeated Gloucester 25-17 in the 2017 final at BT Murrayfield.

• Toulon’s reserve scrumhalf, Benoit Paillaugue, could go one better and make it three winner’s medals. Twice victorious in 2016 and 2021 with Montpellier, Paillaugue could emulate Ben Foden and Christian Day who won with Sale Sharks in 2005, and with Northampton Saints in 2009 and 2014.

• Warriors hooker, Johnny Matthews, is the tournament’s leading try-scorer with seven which includes a club record of five in the Round of 16 win against the Dragons.

• Toulon’s Jiuta Wainiqolo has made the most offloads this season with 16 from his six appearances to date.

• Both Toulon principal coaches, Pierre Mignoni and Franck Azéma, were Challenge Cup winners as players. Mignoni was victorious with Clermont Auvergne – along with the club’s current Sporting Director, Laurent Emmanuelli – when they defeated Bath 22-16 at the Twickenham Stoop in 2007, and Azéma also won with Clermont – then styled as Montferrand – who got the better of Bourgoin in the 1999 decider in Lyon.

• Toulon back row, Cornell du Preez, who was previously capped for Scotland, was on the losing side with Edinburgh in the 2015 final.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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