REPORT: Leinster 29 Toulouse 13
REPORT: Leinster 29 Toulouse 13
January 12, 2019 / Dave Mervyn
Leinster Rugby ended Toulouse’s unbeaten run in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup with a terrific 29-13 bonus point victory at the RDS Arena, which leaves them within touching distance of a quarter-final place.
Jack Conan’s 34th-minute try gave the defending champions a 10-6 lead after playing into a strong wind in the first half. Thomas Ramos kicked two penalties for Toulouse who were 28-27 winners of their home tie in October.
Leinster dominated the final 40 minutes to move to the top of Pool 1 thanks to further tries from Dave Kearney (50 minutes), Sean Cronin (59) – the Ireland hooker’s ninth in 12 appearances – and Adam Byrne (75).
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 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 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 Julien Marchand won a relieving penalty and Sofiane Guitoune’s break had Leinster scrambling.
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 8 Conan took a great line onto his scrum half’s pass to crash over.
Ross Byrne’s conversion was followed by 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.
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 knee 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 as his long pass sent Adam Byrne over for the bonus point try, neatly converted by Noel Reid, which guarantees Leinster’s last-eight spot.
The vast majority of the 18,493-strong crowd roared their approval as Leo Cullen’s men moved back to the pool’s summit, the bonus point giving them 20 points.
Join the roar at the next RDS Arena game when Leinster take on Scarlets on Friday, 25 January! Get tickets from €26.