Leinster rise impressively to the occasion on Easter Sunday

Leinster refuse to be a team that limits their eggs to the one basket.

Leinster rise impressively to the occasion on Easter Sunday


Leinster refuse to be a team that limits their eggs to the one basket.

This Heineken Champions Cup semi-final win over the Top 14 leaders leaves the Irish province fighting on two fronts yet again as May approaches. The double double is once again in their grasp, just 11 months after their claimed PRO14 and European honours.

This was far easier than anyone could have imagined given Toulouse shipped up on the back of an exemplary run of form since September, had beaten them once already this season and the home side's less-than-ideal run in to this fixture.

Fortunate to beat Ulster in the last eight, Leinster had chopped and changed their XV in recent weeks having already booked their home berth for the league semi-finals and a handful of key players harboured questions over their form coming in to this Easter weekend.

Jonathan Sexton was one of those but he ended the afternoon having been named man-of-the-match and speaking about the “ruthless element” to his side's display in scoring three tries and conceding none. They were clinical.

All of which earns them a shot at Saracens in the final in Newcastle's St James' Park on May 11. Sarries have been Europe's best team this season but the manner of Leinster's display here suggests that there will be little between these giants in England's northeast.

Dublin borrowed a beautiful summer's day from the south of France especially for this occasion but Leinster's superiority meant that the anticipated battle between two of Europe's finest sides didn't quite live up to the backdrop, the weather and the pre-match hype.

Toulouse started brightly and claimed an early lead via a Thomas Ramos penalty but Leinster dominated large tracts of the first-half, drawing level with a Jonathan Sexton penalty before kicking through the gears to wrest control of the scoreboard.

The first try arrived on 14 minutes, a brilliantly executed multi-phase effort that criss-crossed the pitch and involved a quartet of half-line breaks before Sean O'Brien fed James Lowe on the wing. The Kiwi did what he does best, bouncing off two tackles and touching down.

Sexton nailed the extra two and they continued to press to such an extent that Richie Gray stuck out an ill-advised arm from the bottom of a ruck in his own 22 just as Luke McGrath was about to play it. That earned the Scot a yellow card and set Leinster up perfectly for another strike.

It came from the resultant lineout, Scott Fardy the man dotting down off the back of a maul from five metres out and another Sexton conversion made it 17-3. So far so very good for the reigning champions but that was until they lost Robbie Henshaw to the sin bin.

Toulouse looked poised to score their opening try, camped as they were on the Leinster try line and with Charlie Faumuina thundering in to take a pass, until Henshaw stuck out an arm and diverted the ball forward. It was clear and it was deliberate and the yellow was merited.

The Top 14 side settled for a penalty rather than turning the screw and that's how it stayed at the interval, 17-6, thanks to a second Lowe try being erased by the TMO on the basis of a fairly flagrant spot of obstruction by Jack Conan on Sofiane Guitoune in the build-up.

A third Ramos penalty cut that deficit to eight shortly after the break but Leinster crushed any nascent comeback on 53 minutes with a second try from Scott Fardy after another period of pressure inside the Toulouse 22.

Sexton tacked on the extras again to increase the province's wiggle room and they managed to keep their own line intact when limiting Toulouse to a fourth penalty, this time from Romain Ntamack, and again shortly after when Garry Ringrose beat Maxime Medard to a touch down.

Another Sexton penalty took Leinster 15 – more than two scores - clear on the hour and the sense of a job being all but done was confirmed when the home side withdrew the out-half with just under a quarter of an hour to play.

Ross Byrne wrapped up the scoring shortly before the end with another three-pointer, Straightforward for Leinster and that's quite the statement given the opposition and the stakes involved.

Newcastle awaits.

Leinster: R Kearney; J Larmour, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe; J Sexton, L McGrath; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, J Ryan; S Fardy, S O'Brien, J Conan. Replacements: J Tracy for Cronin (34); M Deegan for Fardy (42-51) and for Conan (79); E Byrne for Healy (60); M Bent for Furlong and R Byrne for Sexton (both 66); R O'Loughlin for Henshaw, H O'Sullivan for McGrath, C Doris for Ryan (all 78).

Toulouse: T Ramos; Y Huget, S Guitoune, P Ahki, C Kolbe; A Dupont, S Bezy; C Castets, P Mauvaka, C Faumuina; R Arnold, R Gray; R Elstadt, J Tekori, J Kaino. Replacements: C Baille for Castets, S Tolofua for Kaino, M van Dyk for Faumuina, P Faasalele for Tekori (all 51); M Medard for Ramos and R Ntamack for Bezy (both 54); F Cros for Arnold (60); G Marchand for Mauvaka (62).

Referee: W Barnes (Eng).

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