Match Report: Leinster Rugby 40 Toulouse 17
Match Report: Leinster Rugby 40 Toulouse 17
May 14, 2022 / Ryan Corry
Leinster Rugby have qualified for the 2022 edition of the Heineken Champions Cup final in Marseille on May 28.
A brace of tries by James Lowe and two more from Josh van der Flier and Hugo Keenan were enough to dethrone holders Toulouse at a sun-drenched Aviva Stadium.
Leinster were rapidly into their stride from Johnny Sexton’s kick-off and a low, tumbling nudge from Lowe forced Thomas Ramos into emergency action.
A barrage of carries – centres Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose to the fore – drew multiple penalties from referee Karl Dickson, Sexton eventually slotting the penalty in the fifth minute.
The home side looked likely to add to that when Tadhg Furlong’s wonderful pass allowed Keenan to scythe through a gap.
However, Jamison Gibson-Park’s blocked kick backfired when Antoine Dupont picked up the loose ball to strike from distance, Ramos converting for 7-3 in the eighth minute.
Once again, Leinster threatened to torch the French from Caelan Doris’ surge only for the pass to Keenan to lack go to ground off the full-back.
Sexton and Lowe combined on the left and further continuity forced a second penalty for Sexton to make it a one-point game in the 12th minute.
Lowe’s long ball forward from the restart tempted Ramos into a counter and Jack Conan was there to stop it.
Pierre Fouyssac picked the ball from an offside position. Sexton plumbed the corner. The lineout was smooth. The maul was measured.
Gibson-Park played the percentages for Lowe to plunge over from Sexton’s inside ball, the out-half adding the conversion.
Leinster’s passing out the back was lethal, Sexton even dummying the delivery to shoot through the line.
He deliberately slowed down to find van der Flier with an arrow of a pass, the flanker rolling through contact for the try, converted by Sexton.
Looking into the sun, Conan’s spill of the restart prompted a monster Toulouse scrum and Ramos penalty in the 25th minute.
The French were able to survive from Julien Marchand’s turnover on the floor and their passes were starting to stick on the back of Dupont’s service.
Then, Lowe launched a torpedo of a kick and Cyril Baille left his feet at a ruck for Sexton to tag on three points, made easier by the addition of 10 metres from backchat by Rynhardt Elstadt in the 34th minute.
The waves of runners were relentless, Henshaw sliding inside and Ringrose splitting the defence which led to a yellow card for Emmanuel Meafou.
Leinster went for the killer blow from two lineouts, Jimmy O’Brien failing to locate Sexton’s crossfield kick and Henshaw joining a maul too quickly to relieve pressure, leaving it 23-10 at the end of the half.
A feature of the game was Lowe’s lengthy kicks, the latest made more meaningful by Gibson-Park’s speedy chase.
The Toulouse scrum turned defence into pressure. James Ryan stole a lineout for Leinster to come through the air, Keenan’s competition putting O’Brien close to another breakthrough.
Ntamack smartly intercepted Gibson-Park’s trademark miss-pass, Ramos handled Sexton’s high ball and Leinster was guilty of a ruck side-entry.
No matter. Ross Molony, immense throughout, picked off a lineout. Ringrose tickled a kick over the top. Gibson-Park blocked Juan Cruz Mallía.
This triggered a quick-firing attack, culminating in Sexton finding Lowe unopposed on the left for his second which the captain converted from wide out for 30-10 in the 52nd minute.
A spinning Ntamack penalty took Toulouse to within 10 metres where Henshaw hammered into Pita Ahki, Dan Sheehan, on for Kelleher, sent Fouyssac backwards and Ryan snatched a loose ball.
Ahki’s timely tackle on Sexton in the backfield was countered by front-foot defence from the Blues as a collective, swarming into and around Toulouse.
An acrobatic palm down of Sexton’s cross-kick by Lowe to O’Brien deserved better than it yielded going into the final quarter.
A Leinster lineout faltered to invite Toulouse forward. They needed to build in sevens rather than threes and a maul was taken over by Selevasio Tolofua, tip-toeing along the touchline, for Ramos to land the conversion for 30-17 in the 66th minute.
This seemed to lift Toulouse’s energy levels in defence to force a knock-on and the scrum squeezed another penalty.
Lowe picked off Ntamack’s offload and pivoted to send the ball deep inside the 22 where Leinster’s defence forced a knock-on.
They were patient in managing the clock, making small gains to produce a penalty for Ross Byrne to make it a three-score game in the 74th minute.
And that was the ball game. Replacement Joe McCarthy making an instant impact, Ringrose punching a kick in behind, Lowe grabbing the bobbling ball and Keenan finishing close to the posts for Byrne to complete the job.