Champions Cup: Outstanding Leinster see off champions Toulouse to reach a sixth final

·3-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Leinster continued their hugely impressive form to overwhelm defending champions Toulouse and secure their place in the Champions Cup final with a dominant 40-17 triumph.

The Irish province have been superb in this season’s knockout stages, convincingly beating both Connacht and Leicester Tigers, and they added the holders to their list of victims.

Le Rouge et Noir had no answer to the tempo and accuracy of Leo Cullen’s men, despite going 7-3 ahead early on through a piece of Antoine Dupont opportunism.

Leinster had asserted their authority on proceedings prior to that try, with Johnny Sexton kicking a penalty, and even that Dupont score did not deter them.

Instead, they maintained their control and composure, and went into the break 23-10 ahead thanks to James Lowe and Josh van der Flier tries.

Lowe’s second at the start of the second period well and truly put the Irishmen in command and, although Selevasio Tolofua gave Toulouse a brief glimmer of hope, Hugo Keenan went over late on to rubberstamp the win.

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An early Leinster barrage had Toulouse backpedalling, Matthis Lebel doing well to deny Jimmy O’Brien a try before Sexton fired over a penalty.

However, just as the hosts threatened again through Keenan, Dupont blocked Jamison Gibson-Park’s kick and broke free from the Toulouse 22 for a sucker punch score, converted by Thomas Ramos.

Sexton narrowed the gap to 7-6 and, while a break from Caelan Doris had promised more, Leinster were ruthless on the quarter-hour mark.

A lineout maul gave them momentum, Robbie Henshaw carried strongly and Sexton’s inside pass saw Lowe score a seven-pointer on the short side.

Ross Molony sent Sexton through the Toulouse defence just three minutes later, with the fly-half finding Van der Flier, who rolled over the line despite Juan Cruz Mallia’s tackle.

Despite Sexton stretching the lead to 20-7, Toulouse stormed back with a big scrum and Ramos duly cut the deficit.

Sexton punished Francois Cros for going off his feet and, although a cynical Emmanuel Meafou saw yellow following a Garry Ringrose surge, Toulouse survived thanks to an offside call against Henshaw.

The French giants stood firm while down to 14 men, but Leinster stunned them with a try off a Molony lineout steal.

Gibson-Park followed up to charge down Mallia and the attacking waves ended with Sexton’s long pass putting Lowe over on the left.

The gap was out to 20 points after Sexton’s well-struck conversion and Toulouse’s initial attempts off a maul were repelled.

Pita Ahki lifted the Top 14 title holders with a man-and-ball tackle on Sexton and the visitors’ forward power allowed Tolofua to tiptoe over from a lineout drive, with Ramos converting.

Leinster replacement Ross Byrne knocked over the insurance score, though, and Keenan slipped past both Peato Mauvaka and Cyril Baille with two minutes left, ensuring Leinster will have a shot at a fifth European star in Marseille.

READ MORE: Lyon triumph over Wasps to book a place in the Challenge Cup final

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