Leinster demonstrate immense depth by brushing off Toulouse for bonus-point win

Charlie Morgan
The Telegraph
Dave Kearney latches on to Ross Byrne's cross-kick to score - PA
Dave Kearney latches on to Ross Byrne's cross-kick to score - PA
  • Leinster 29-13 Toulouse

Leinster ended Toulouse's unbeaten run in this season's Heineken Champions Cup as a terrific 29-13 bonus point victory at the RDS secured their quarter-final place with one round remaining.

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Jack Conan's 34th-minute try gave the defending champions a 10-6 lead after playing into a strong wind in the first half, with Thomas Ramos kicking two penalties in reply for Toulouse.

The hosts, despite a significant list of absentees that included captain Jonathan Sexton, Rob Kearney, Robbie Henshaw, Devin Toner and Dan Leavy, then went on to dominate the second half with three further tries.

Dave Kearney, Sean Cronin - the Ireland hooker's ninth in 12 appearances - and Adam Byrne all crossed as Leinster claimed a victory that moves them top of Pool 1.

<span>Jack Conan stretches over to score in the first half</span> <span>Credit: Sportsfile </span>
Jack Conan stretches over to score in the first half Credit: Sportsfile

Having been kept quiet for the most part, Toulouse back Cheslin Kolbe wriggled free to run in a last-minute consolation try for the French side, whose quarter-final hopes rest on next Sunday's final-round clash at home to Bath.

Sealing a home quarter-final will be Leinster's aim when they visit Wasps at the same time.

Both sides oozed intent early on, man-of-the-match Garry Ringrose cleverly releasing Leinster skipper Rhys Ruddock to charge past halfway while Antoine Dupont regained those metres via a quick tap penalty.

A seventh-minute penalty from straight in front saw Ross Byrne kick the hosts ahead, punishing Richie Arnold's tackle off the ball.

Ramos levelled after Toulouse - who beat the champions 28-27 at home in October - gained momentum at a scrum in the hosts' 22, and the French club's resilient defence held out from 38 frantic phases sparked by Jordan Larmour's jinking run.

Their captain Julian Marchand won a relieving penalty and Sofiane Guitoune's break had Leinster scrambling.

<span>Scott Fardy enjoyed a strong game for Leinster</span> <span>Credit: Sportsfile </span>
Scott Fardy enjoyed a strong game for Leinster Credit: Sportsfile

However, Conan's man-and-ball tackle on Jerome Kaino, coupled with further incisive running from Larmour and Kearney, kept Leinster on the front foot and the pressure led to a number of penalties against Toulouse.

Luke McGrath was held up short before Adam Byrne threatened out wide, and number eight Conan took a great line onto his scrum half's pass to crash over.

Ross Byrne's conversion was followed by a soft three points at the other end, Ramos punishing Rory O'Loughlin for playing the ball off his feet.

Leinster crucially hit back within 10 minutes of the restart, Kearney superbly collecting Ross Byrne's cross-field kick, absorbing Romain Ntamack's challenge and reaching over to score in the left corner.

<span>Adam Byrne capped Leinster's fine win</span> <span>Credit: Sportsfile </span>
Adam Byrne capped Leinster's fine win Credit: Sportsfile

The swirling wind foiled Byrne's conversion attempt and as Leinster went for the jugular, Dupont's interception denied Cronin a try in the same corner.

But the score arrived on the hour mark when the experienced hooker reached over from a ruck, although the attack was marred by a worrying leg injury to McGrath.

Leinster replacement James Tracy won a big penalty at the breakdown, as Toulouse's forwards missed out on a much-needed try.

McGrath's replacement Jamison Gibson-Park then capitalised on Andrew Porter's hard-earned penalty to send Adam Byrne over for the bonus point try, neatly converted by Noel Reid, which guarantees Leinster's last-eight spot. Kolbe's subsequent reply was too little, too late.

PA

2:55PM

"We knew we had to go to a level we haven't been to this season with the ball"

Leinster skipper Rhys Ruddock says it felt like Leinster were "running into a brick wall" at times during the first half. During the second, that wall cracked.

<span>Credit: Channel 4 </span>
Credit: Channel 4

2:53PM

Full-time | Leinster 29 Toulouse 13

A bonus-point win for a Leinster side shorn of some of their most experienced players. Impressive.

2:52PM

Try, Cheslin Kolbe!  Leinster 29 Toulouse 13, 80 minutes

Kolbe gets the final word, a sparkling, solo consolation try. He converts it himself with a swift drop-goal but that is that.

2:50PM

Leinster 29 Toulouse 6, 78 minutes 

That sums up Toulouse's second half. Médard goes for touch from a penalty and does not find it. 

2:48PM

Try, Adam Byrne! Leinster 29 Toulouse 6, 74 minutes

Porter jackals to force a penalty - he's brilliant at that - and Leinster are away. Jamison Gibson-Park taps and swings a pass over the top to wing Byrne, who finishes with ease. That's the bonus point.

Noel Reid is on and adds the extras from the tee. 

2:44PM

Leinster 22 Toulouse 6, 72 minutes   

Andrew Porter has been busy from the bench but he ships a scrum penalty for a dodgy bind. Toulouse can clear to halfway.

2:40PM

Match action

2:39PM

Leinster 22 Toulouse 6, 68 minutes  

Phenomenal defensive stand from Leinster. Toulouse bash away from close range but cannot breach the blue wall. Scott Fardy is right in the thick of things and eventually Leinster win a breakdown penalty.

2:34PM

Leinster 22 Toulouse 6, 64 minutes 

Ross Byrne collars Huget. Penalty to Toulouse. They go to the corner.

2:33PM

Leinster 22 Toulouse 6, 62 minutes

Kolbe scurries and sidesteps his way through a handful of Leinster tackles. Now the forwards press on. Toulouse are within three metres...

2:31PM

Leinster 22 Toulouse 6, 60 minutes

Jamison Gibson-Park is on for Leinster at scrum-half.

2:29PM

Try, Sean Cronin! Leinster 22 Toulouse 6, 60 minutes

Those white boots you can see belong to Leinster's hooker. Cronin has the Dubliners' third try.

<span>Credit: Channel 4 </span>
Credit: Channel 4

Ross Byrne converts. 

2:28PM

TMO

Do we have another pick-and-go try for Leinster? 

2:24PM

Leinster 15 Toulouse 6, 57 minutes 

Toulouse are penalised inside their own 22 for failing to roll away. Leinster hit the corner.

2:21PM

Leinster 15 Toulouse 6, 53 minutes

Ah. Médard spills Luke McGrath's box-kick and Toulouse are offside from the ricochet. Leinster go to the corner and work a clever move to the front of the lineout but Conan's return pass to Cronin is intercepted by Dupont.

2:19PM

Try, Dave Kearney!  Leinster 15 Toulouse 6, 50 minutes

Excellent from Leinster. It's come out of nothing, really. Ross Byrne steps back into the pocket behind some forward runners and clips a cross-field kick behind Romain Ntamack.

Kearney gathers and scores inches from the touchline.

<span>Credit: Channel 4 </span>
Credit: Channel 4

Byrne hooks the conversion wide. 

2:15PM

Leinster 10 Toulouse 6, 48 minutes  

Thomas Ramos has been replaced by Zack Holmes as Leinster breach the Toulouse 22 again through James Ryan.

2:12PM

Leinster 10 Toulouse 6, 46 minutes 

Toulouse are caught offside and Leinster go to touch. Their maul eats up a few metres. This is a big chance now...they've spilled it. Ramos clears and Ringrose strings through a grubber which dribbles into touch about five metes from the Toulouse line.

2:10PM

Leinster 10 Toulouse 6, 44 minutes

Toulouse try to build some impetus but there is a burly counter-ruck from James Ryan that derails them. Leinster fumble on trying to complete the turnover, so it's a scrum to the visitors.

2:06PM

Second half

The second period is underway. A very messy start. Ross Byrne's strike isn't clean. Neither is Cheslin Kolbe's in reply. Leinster try to mount a counter and Toulouse knock on. 

Scrum to the hosts on their left, close to halfway. 

1:52PM

Half-time | Leinster 10 Toulouse 6

...and that's enough for the first half. This try separates the sides:

<span>Credit: Sportsfile </span>
Credit: Sportsfile

1:51PM

Penalty, Thomas Ramos! Leinster 10 Toulouse 6, 40 minutes

Cheslin Kolbe scurries across the field as the clock runs past the 40-minute mark. Médard cuts back and Leinster are penalised for handling in the ensuing ruck.

Ramos cuts the deficit to four from the tee...

1:46PM

Leinster 10 Toulouse 3, 36 minutes

McGrath clears into touch from the restart and Toulouse will come again...there's another spill. Loosehead prop Clément Castets could not hold on to Dupont's pass.

1:44PM

Try, Jack Conan! Leinster 10 Toulouse 3, 34 minutes

Slick from Leinster. Garry Ringrose floats a long pass out to Adam Byrne on the right flank. They heavy men then come back against the grain. First Ruddock carries, then it's Conan. It's a try.

Ross Byrne converts.

1:42PM

Leinster 3 Toulouse 3, 33 minutes  

No try. We come back for a penalty against Toulouse flanker Rynhardt Elstadt, who crept off the back of the scrum too early.

Hmm. What's going on here. Charlie Faumuina is heading off and Pearce has a discussion with the Toulouse medic, asking whether or not it Faumuina is heading for  HIA. He is, apparently.

<span>Credit: Channel 4 </span>
Credit: Channel 4

1:39PM

TMO

Has Luke McGrath scored? Has he been held up over the line?

<span>Credit: Channel 4 </span>
Credit: Channel 4

1:37PM

Leinster 3 Toulouse 3, 32 minutes 

Leinster are back within striking distance thanks to another penalty at the breakdown..."it's a mess" says referee Luke Pearce.

Scrum to Leinster, five metres out. Toulouse are just creaking here.

1:36PM

Leinster 3 Toulouse 3, 28 minutes

Big moment, and it's inspired by Jordan Larmour. He takes a pass from Luke McGrath in the back-field and links with Dave Kearney before taking a return pass and finding McGrath. Larmour follows up to win Leinster a penalty with a pick and go. 

The hosts go to the corner...but a peel goes wrong.

1:31PM

Leinster 3 Toulouse 3, 25 minutes    

Cian Healy, James Ryan and Garry Ringrose makes ground. Cronin latches onto an inside shift from Ruddock but he's tackled by Faumuina and Dupont and cannot hold on.

Scrum to Toulouse around halfway. 

1:28PM

Match action

Faumuina has been prevalent in the loose.

<span>Credit: Sportsfile </span>
Credit: Sportsfile

1:26PM

Leinster 3 Toulouse 3, 23 minutes   

Leinster win a free-kick from the scrum when Faumuina pre-engages. Toulouse's lineout maul rumbles forward after the hosts clear but there is another handling error.

1:24PM

Leinster 3 Toulouse 3, 20 minutes  

Sofiane Guitoune goes straight through Ross Byrne from the lineout!. Yoann Huget is in support but the ball goes to the floor.

1:23PM

Leinster 3 Toulouse 3, 19 minutes 

Remarkable defensive set from Toulouse. Leinster go through 35 phases. Thirty five. At one point they get to within two metres when Scott Fardy offloads to Rory O'Loughlin.

However, Toulouse stand firm and eventually skipper Marchand wins a holding-on penalty.

1:19PM

Leinster 3 Toulouse 3, 16 minutes

Toulouse cycle through a few phases but Leinster stand firm and Adam Byrne is away dow the right. Jordan Larmour then rouses the RDS with a wicked step and the hosts are into the Toulouse 22...

1:17PM

Match action

Here's Rhys Ruddock on the charge.

<span>Credit: Sportsfile </span>
Credit: Sportsfile

1:16PM

Penalty, Thomas Ramos! Leinster 3 Toulouse 3, 14 minutes

Charlie Faumuina powers through Cian Healy and Leinster go down. Pearce penalises Leinster and Ramos levels it.

1:14PM

Leinster 3 Toulouse 0, 12 minutes 

Toulouse carry powerfully for a few phases but Francois Cros fumbles under pressure on the gain-line.

Jack Conan runs off the base...and referee Luke Pearce is in the way. He blows up for another scrum.

1:10PM

Leinster 3 Toulouse 0, 9 minutes

Leinster threaten from the restart but Cheslin Kolbe jams in to tackle Van der Flier and forces an error.

1:09PM

Penalty, Ross Byrne! Leinster 3 Toulouse 0, 7 minutes

Fluent, fierce phase-play from Leinster wins a reward. Byrne takes the ball to the line and the tackle oin him from Richie Arnold looks high. That isn't called, but Charlie Faumuina's off-the-ball challenge on Jack Conan is.

Byrne can open the scoring with a simple clip through the posts.

1:06PM

Leinster 0 Toulouse 0, 4 minutes 

Advantage Leinster. Sean Cronin surges off the tail of the lineout and flattens Thomas Ramos. Leinster win a penalty when Romain Ntamack goes off his feet at the breakdown. Cronin pumps his fist...then gets a telling off from Pearce for appealing.

1:05PM

Leinster 0 Toulouse 0, 3 minutes

Breathless start. Ross Byrne breaks from the scrum and Garry Ringrose releases an offload. Ruddock charges into Toulouse territory but Joe Tekori piles through.

Antoine Dupont gets a chance to take a quick tap penalty and Toulouse pile back to the cusp of Leinster's 22. Josh van der Flier wins a turnover and the hosts clear.

1:02PM

Kick-off

Toulouse get us underway. Garry Ringrose fields the kick, Luke McGrath goes to the air and Maxime Médard spills. Scrum to Leinster.

The referee is Luke Pearce. Not Tom Foley. Foley is one of the assistants. Sorry about that.

1:00PM

Players out

<span>Credit: Channel 4 </span>
Credit: Channel 4

 Rhys Ruddock is captaining Leinster today. Toulouse are led by hooker Julien Marchand, who has been called into France's Six Nations squad. 

12:53PM

Five minutes until kick-off

<span>Credit: Sportsfile </span>
Credit: Sportsfile

 A big day for Ross Byrne, today. He starts at fly-half instead of Johnny Sexton.

12:50PM

Conditions

It's dry but fairly blustery and chilly out there. 

12:49PM

"We don't get too caught up on what we don't have"

Leo Cullen says Leinster have "tonnes of experience" despite their injuries.

<span>Credit: Channel 4 </span>
Credit: Channel 4

12:38PM

"Leinster will still be hurting..."

Jerome Kaino expects a backlash from Leinster, and not just because of Toulouse's victory in October. He says the Dublin province will be stinging from their recent inter-provincial loss to Munster as well.

<span>Credit: Channel 4 </span>
Credit: Channel 4

12:34PM

As things stand

This is the all-important table for quarter-final qualification and seedings. Leinster will be desperate to crack that top four to snatch a home quarter-final.

<span>Credit: Channel 4 </span>
Credit: Channel 4

12:30PM

Teams unchanged

No late alterations to either side.

12:29PM

Half an hour until kick-off

We're nearly there. This should be fascinating.

12:18PM

Front and centre

Leinster may be missing a few influential figures, but Tadhg Furlong starts for them at tighthead prop. What a player.

<span>Credit: Sportsfile </span>
Credit: Sportsfile

12:11PM

Players are in the house

Toulouse have rocked up...

..and so have this afternoon's hosts:

12:02PM

Analysis

Toulouse have made a whopping 64 offloads in their four Champions Cup games so far. That's 15 more than any other side.

We took a look at how offloading and kick-passing have helped teams unlock defences over the European campaign so far.

<span>Credit: BT Sport </span>
Credit: BT Sport

11:59AM

Hi there

Hello and welcome to our live text commentary of what feels like the most compelling game of the Champions Cup weekend between the two most decorated teams in this competition.

Today’s contestants boast eight titles between them, four each. Both have made strong starts to this campaign and appear intent on adding a fifth triumph this spring in Newcastle.

Leinster host Toulouse at the RDS Arena and, having lost 28-27 over The Channel back in October, the champions are out for revenge. Besides settling that score, they need a victory ensure qualification for the knockout rounds.

<span>Thomas Ramos celebrates beating Leinster back in October</span> <span>Credit: Sportsfile </span>
Thomas Ramos celebrates beating Leinster back in October Credit: Sportsfile

A defeat would mean a tricky away quarter-final at best…and could even foreshadow an unthinkably early exit. And winning will not be easy.

Devin Toner, Dan Leavy, Sean O’Brien, Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe and Rob Kearney have all been ruled out of action by Leinster. Still, they can still field a starting side featuring 15 full internationals and a strong bench, though.

This is how they line up:

15. Jordan Larmour, 14. Adam Byrne, 13. Garry Ringrose,12. Rory O'Loughlin, 11. Dave Kearney, 10. Ross Byrne, 9. Luke McGrath;1. Cian Healy,2. Sean Cronin, 3. Tadhg Furlong,4. Scott Fardy, 5. James Ryan, 6. Rhys Ruddock (captain), 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Jack Conan Replacements:16. James Tracy,17. Ed Byrne, 18. Andrew Porter, 19. Ross Molony, 20. Max Deegan,21. Jamison Gibson-Park, 22. Noel Reid, 23. Conor O'Brien

And here is Toulouse’s exciting selection. Thomas Ramos, who has been shifted up from full-back, should be a lot of fun to watch at fly-half:

15. Maxime Médard, 14. Cheslin Kolbe, 13. Sofiane Guitoune, 12. Romain Ntamack, 11. Yoann Huget, 10. Thomas Ramos, 9. Antoine Dupont; 1. Clément Castets, 2. Julien Marchand (captain), 3. Charlie Faumuina, 4. Richie Arnold, 5. Joe Tekori, 6. Francois Cros, 7. Rynhardt Elstadt, 8. Jerome Kaino Replacements: 16. Peato Mauvaka, 17. Cyril Baille, 18. Dorian Aldegheri, 19. Piula Faasalele, 20. Louis Madaule, 21. Alban Placines, 22. Sébastien Bézy, 23. Zack Holmes

Kick-off is about an hour away.

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