Skipper Carl Hayman says Toulon’s European hat-trick will be hard to beat
Toulon captain Carl Hayman reckons teams will have their work cut out trying to match his side’s unprecedented achievement of being crowned kings of Europe in three successive seasons.
Hayman’s men defeated French rivals Clermont 24-18 in a thrilling European Rugby Champions Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday.
Drew Mitchell’s breathtaking try 11 minutes from time, which saw the Wallabies wing go past six Clermont defenders, sealed the outcome of a see-saw contest in dramatic fashion.
Former New Zealand prop Hayman, for whom this is his final season with Toulon before retirement, praised the champions’ resilience.
“Right to the end it was anyone’s game, that’s finals rugby,” he said.
“From our behalf, it’s good that we’ve been in that position a lot in the last three or four years,” the 35-year-old front-row added.
“The guys know what’s needed and we were able to hang in there.”
As for where Toulon’s third European final victory in a row stood in a sequence that started with a nailbiting 16-15 win over Clermont in Dublin before last year’s 23-6 defeat of English giants Saracens, Hayman was in no doubt.
“I think being the third one, it’s even greater,” he said. “It’s such a difficult competition, especially now with the pools being reduced, it’s a lot harder.
“So it’s a third time, and that will be extremely rare [for any other club to match].
“Teams now have bigger budgets; teams are getting more competitive and more balanced throughout the competition.”
Hayman, capped 45 times by the All Blacks from 2001-2007, is one of several Toulon players, along with former test locks Ali Williams (New Zealand) and Bakkies Botha (South Africa), who plan to retire at the end of the season.
But despite the loss of three key forwards, Hayman said Toulon could make it four in a row next year.