“It’s a way of saying goodbye to football.”
Even in the defeat, Glasgow manager Franco Smith brilliantly summed up Toulon’s eighth-ranked Sergio Paris, who retired from the sport at the age of 39.
The Italian superstar could barely bring himself off the pitch, with his country’s flag looming over him as he spent the final seconds at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.
One hundred and forty-two appearances for the Italian national team, five World Cup appearances, two Challenge Cups, two France 14 titles and many fond memories.
“It means a lot,” Paris told BT Sport after the 43-19 win in Toulon. “It’s hard to put into words emotionally.
“It’s good for the team and for me personally it’s important – I try to enjoy every moment with the team and I’m really happy because I think we really deserved the win .
“I’m Italian, so everything I do is emotional. Just wanted to enjoy tonight, happy to play with this team, happy to finish my career in Toulon. Enjoy it, enjoy and Good night to the children in Dublin.”
Smith worked with Paris in his debut season at Benetton in 2002. Even with the disappointment of the loss, the South African was full of praise for Paris, who has been an iconic figure in Italian rugby for two decades.
“He’s a 19-year-old lad, a young exciting guy with a lot of skill, the way he is now, but I think he’s a little reckless,” Smith said.
“He’s been developing and challenging himself and taking care of his body to be here tonight after 20 years. What a gentleman. We had a brief chat with him after the game and he’s an important rugby figure .
“I’ve always said good people make good players and he’s a prime example of that. He can be proud of giving it his all until almost 40. It’s a way of saying goodbye to rugby.”
“I’m kind of tired of studying”
While Paris and his team-mates cheered from the stands, Glasgow kept their heads down after a frustrating performance.
Their aim was to become the first Scottish side to lift the European trophy, but they never really came close. With the Warriors’ effort, Toulon took a 21-0 lead, but the rebound was too little, too late.
It added to the pain of the quarter-final loss to Munster in the Rugby Union Championship a fortnight ago. A progressive season full of what-ifs.
“It’s been a little frustrating,” captain Kyle Steyn said. “I’m a bit tired of studying, and you want to achieve it now.
“But it’s a really good team and we’re lucky that 96 per cent of the team is going to move on here. But it’s a huge learning curve – like Franco said, winning when you get there. Finals are a whole different skill set.
“That’s the lesson. You have to stick to your system and be accurate. In the Munster game and tonight, we created a lot of chances and didn’t take them, while Munster and Toulon did.”
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