Leinster 22-31 Toulouse: Antoine Dupont leads charge to record sixth Champions Cup triumph

Dupont was peerless in north London (AFP via Getty Images)
Dupont was peerless in north London (AFP via Getty Images)

Toulouse call Antoine Dupont The Alien, and this planet’s best rugby player delivered yet another out-of-this-world performance to seal the French side’s record sixth Champions Cup triumph.

Rugby’s extra terrestrial being touched down at the space-age Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and in all the moments that mattered most, proved himself a galaxy apart.

Toulouse needed extra-time to subdue a gutted Leinster 31-22. The Dubliners had plenty of chances to win this match in 80 minutes and ultimately choked, as hard a judgement as that may be.

French aristocrats Toulouse were even reduced to 14 men in extra-time, when Australian lock Richie Arnold was sent off, for a head-high clear-out on Cian Healy.

And still Leinster could not profit. Not even when Josh Van Der Flier punched in for his side’s first try.

Dupont was the reason. In his unrivalled career, the man who is perhaps the most complete rugby player of all time is so often the reason.

His two peerless turnovers would have had any specialist openside flanker purring, even his team-mate and Englishman Jack Willis.

When Willis got in on the turnover act himself, winning a penalty that allowed Thomas Ramos to stretch Toulouse’s lead to 31-22, Toulouse could definitively lay claim to their sixth Champions Cup star.

Thomas Ramos sealed it for the French side (AFP via Getty Images)
Thomas Ramos sealed it for the French side (AFP via Getty Images)

Thanks to Toulouse’s very own E.T. it was Leinster who were forced to phone home, in total distress.

Leinster’s third Champions Cup final defeat in succession will hit the Irish province the hardest.

The Dublin men even recruited double World Cup-winning South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber to replace Stuart Lancaster, in a bid to inch over the line.

Not even Nienaber could find a way to stop Dupont. The 27-year-old will bid to help Toulouse retain their French Top 14 title – then after that will launch an assault on the Olympics with France’s Sevens side.

No one is about to bet against Dupont producing another set of other-worldly performances in Paris and grab gold. For north London in late May though, securing Toulouse’s six appeal was more than enough.

Matthis Lebel claimed Toulouse’s only try, racing home in extra-time after the match was level at 15-15 after the regulation 80.

Arnold’s red card handed Leinster a chance, but somehow Toulouse still shut the door.

From a marathon match’s very off, Dupont did his best UFO impression.

The red-clad No 9 so nearly floated above the touchline to waft a scoring pass to Juan Cruz Mallia. But TV checks ruled Dupont had shaved a mere stud on the touchline’s paint.

Willis bossed the breakdown and claimed two crucial penalties, as Scotland full-back Blair Kinghorn slotted three first-half goals.

Leinster saw a fine finish from James Lowe chalked off for a forward pass, which meant his monster fend on Kinghorn counted for nought.

Byrne settled for two first-half penalties as Toulouse turned around 9-6 ahead.

Leinster regrouped at the break and returned in altogether more bullish mood.

Byrne levelled the scores with his third penalty, and suddenly Toulouse were clinging on.

Leinster could not even punch a lineout maul home, so had to settle for a fourth penalty from Byrne, to tie the game again, at 12-12 on 65 minutes.

Then Willis conjured the breakdown steal of the season, picking his time and angle perfectly, first driving Leinster off the ball then flicking it back Toulouse’s way.

Dupont jinked clear of three tacklers and two challenges, and Lebel launched himself for the corner. Toulouse were denied by the touchline for the second time in the match.

Ramos and replacement Leinster fly-half Ciaran Frawley traded penalties, to make it 15 apiece at the supposed death.

But just as the Dubliners powered within try-scoring range, up popped Dupont – who else – with not one but two magical, celestial turnovers, of all things.

Toulouse booted the ball out – and extra time it was.

The drama continued straight after the break. Lowe was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, nonplussed but banged to rights.

Ramos somehow missed the penalty shot, but then Toulouse struck with ball in hand anyway.

Kinghorn added a dash of brilliance on a devasting counter attack, before Lebel outstripped everyone for straight-line gas.

Ramos made no mistake with the conversion, and Toulouse were 22-15 to the good.

Game over? Nope. Because Arnold ploughed through Healy’s head, needlessly.

His rightful red card let Leinster step off the canvas. Van Der Flier nipped in from a tight drive, and Frawley’s conversion left Toulouse leading just 25-22 at half-time in extra-time.

But Toulouse simply refused to be denied. Ramos booted one penalty, then Willis’ superlative steal allow him the chance to blast another.

And finally, eventually, all told, with four minutes of 100 left, Toulouse’s madcap faithful could start bouncing in the Tottenham stands.