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RC Toulon | Route to the semi-finals

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RC Toulon reached the later stages of the European Challenge Cup with an unbeaten record in qualifying to top the rankings and ensure home advantage in the knockout rounds. Ahead of the semi-final against Leicester Tigers on Saturday, here's a look at how the French hosts got this far.

Round 1

Two tries in four first-half minutes by prop Marcel van der Merwe set Toulon on their way to a 20-13 win at Bayonne to get the campaign off to a positive start in Pool 2.

But the three-time Champions Cup winners were made to fight for the points as they trailed 13-10 before wing Julian Savea got them back on course with a try and replacement Anthony Etrillard added another four minutes from the end.

Round 2

Anthony Belleau kicked a last-gasp conversion to secure a 17-16 win at home to the Scarlets in a thrilling Friday evening encounter.

The Scarlets lost lock Tevita Ratuva to a red card at the end of the first half but still led 16-10 going into the dying seconds following a superb second-half display in which Ryan Lamb and Dan Jones shared the kicking.

But then, in the eighth minute of stoppage time, Toulon mauled their way over the line 10 metres in from touch and Sébastien Taofifénua was eventually credited with the score, with Belleau adding the kick in off a post.

Round 3

Toulon made it three from three with a bonus-point 37-17 win over London Irish.

They set the ball rolling with an early try for Baptiste Serin, and he added a second after a Steve Mafi score for the Exiles as Irish trailed by just five points at the break.

But Toulon moved clear in the second half, with Ramiro Moyano Joya and Masivesi Dakuwaqa adding tries before Theo Dachary was sent off for a high tackle.

And they wrapped up an extra point in the last minute when Moyano got his second of the match to secure an 11th successive home win in the tournament.

Toulon v London Irish
Victory at London Irish gave Toulon a firm grip on top spot in the qualifying pool

Round 4

Toulon completed a pre-Christmas double over London Irish with a 26-20 win at the Madejski Stadium.

Irish led with a Paddy Jackson penalty and got the first try through big back-rower Albert Tuisue, but the kicking of Anthony Belleau kept Toulon in touch before Masivesi Dakuwaqa latched on to a cross-field kick to touch down in the corner.

Irish had already received one yellow card and trailed 19-10 at half-time when former Tigers centre Terrence Hepetema was also sin-binned.

Baptiste Serin scored his third try in two games to provide some daylight on the scoreboard before lock Barney Maddison scored from close range for Irish with just three minutes remaining.

Round 5

Visitors Toulon had to come from behind to win 27-15 at Parc y Scarlets and guarantee qualification for the quarter-finals.

The Scarlets started strongly as Gareth Davies scored in the first minute, and Leigh Halfpenny added a penalty before Toulon celebrated tries from Anthony Etrillard, Masivesi Dakuwaqa, Julian Savea and Bastien Soury.

Anthony Belleau added two conversions and a second-half penalty, though some of the gloss was lost as Etrillard was lost to injury before Scarlets made the most of some last pressure to score through Steff Evans.

Round 6

A clean sweep of six wins was secured with a 50-6 triumph over Bayonne to ensure top seeding in the knockout stages for Toulon.

They led by only 14-6 at half-time but dominated the second period, running in a total of eight tries.

First, wing Gabin Villiere set up full-back Gervais Cordin for a fine score, then Masivesi Dakuwaqa provided the space for former Worcester centre Bryce Heem to add a second.

Beka Gigashvili (2), Facundo Isa, Bruce Devaux and Julien Ory all added tries in the second half alongside an eycatching late effort from Villiere.

Quarter-final

In a third meeting of the season with the Scarlets, Toulon came through to an 11-6 victory after trailing at half-time.

Two penalties from Leigh Halfpenny had given Scarlets a half-time lead in the south of France where Sergio Parisse had been denied a score by television replays which confirmed a forward pass in the build-up.

But Toulon maintained their 100-per-cent record in the tournament this season as replacement Louis Carbonel inspired a second-half fightback, kicking a penalty and then setting up Parisse for a score.

Scarlets still had their moments and a restricted home crowd of around 5,000 finally managed to breath easily when Carbonel landed another kick entering the final 10 minutes.