Last weekend I traveled to France to be the TV match official for the Amlin Challenge Cup final between Toulon and Cardiff Blues in Marseille. An uneventful flight from Dublin to Paris was followed by an uncharacteristic delay in the TGV station in CDG airport due to a breakdown of the train. It arrived eventually and four hours later we were in Marseille. The Radisson Blu (http://www.radissonblu.com/hotel-marseille) by the Vieux Port was the hotel – recommended. Very good beds, good breakfast, and excellent location.
The game was played at the Velodrome, the normal location for Olympic Marseille soccer. France play some of their autumn rugby internationals there and Toulon play some of their higher-profile French Top 14 matches there as Stade Mayol in Toulon can only accommodate circa 15,000. This game attracted a full house of over 49,000 and the noise on the pitch was something else.
Toulon should have scored in the first 15 seconds and ended up wasting a ton of chances. They led 13-6 at half-time but should have been out of sight by at least 20-6. Early in the second half, Jonny Wilkinson suffered a back injury when attempting a penalty and was taken off. Toulon seemed to go to pieces after that, possibly because a team composed of talented individuals sometimes struggles to function as an effective team, and Cardiff scored two quick converted tries to take the lead and eventually won 28-21. There were no TMO decisions and the Irish team of Rolland-Lewis-Clancy-Rogan-Beggs kept the game under the kind of control that’s needed in a competitive final.
After the game we had a police motorcycle escort back to the TGV station (and witnessed an impressive feat where a motorcycle cop had both arms extended to direct traffic on two sides while controlling the bike with his knees) to take the train back to Paris where we stayed in the Novotel Gare de Lyon overnight (http://www.novotel.com/gb/hotel-1735-novotel-paris-gare-de-lyon/index.shtml); a typical center-city tourist hotel. The relocation to Paris was necessary to get on the first flight back to Dublin on Monday morning as some people had to work!
Update September 20: Good blog post on what a TMO does during a match at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/tomfordyce/2010/09/video_saves_the_rugby_star.html