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Heineken Champions Cup: Leinster dominate Toulouse to reach Marseille final

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Published in Rugby
Saturday, 14 May 2022 08:54

Leinster reached their first Champions Cup final since 2019 with a comfortable 40-17 win over holders Toulouse in a sun-kissed Dublin.

The dominant hosts led 23-10 at the break thanks to tries from James Lowe and Josh van der Flier after Antoine Dupont's early opener for Toulouse.

Lowe added his second try in a more even second half before Selevasio Tolofua went over for the French side.

Hugo Keenan's late try sealed a comprehensive win for the Irish side.

Leinster captain Johnny Sexton produced an inspirational display by setting up three tries and kicking 15 points.

It was a meeting between the competition's two most successful sides and now Leinster have the chance to equal Toulouse's tally of five titles.

Leo Cullen's men will target their first Champions Cup success since 2018 when they take on the winner of Sunday's game between Racing 92 and La Rochelle, in the Marseille decider on 28 May.

Pressure pays off for hosts

Leinster piled on the pressure from the start in front of a 40,000 crowd at the Aviva Stadium and were rewarded with Sexton's first penalty after five minutes.

But they were caught out two minutes later when Jamison Gibson-Park's grubber kick was blocked with the ball falling to Dupont, who ran over 80 metres to the line for a converted try.

Sexton added a second penalty and his inside pass sent Lowe diving over for Leinster's opening try with the Ireland skipper adding the extras.

The second try arrived on 20 minutes as Sexton made the break and passed on to Van der Flier, with the flanker's momentum taking him over.

Sexton converted and Thomas Ramos slotted over a penalty after Toulouse overpowered the hosts in a scrum - helped by Tadhg Furlong's absence after the Leinster prop was forced off with an injury.

Another penalty was popped over by Sexton while Toulouse lock Emmanuel Meafou was sin-binned just before the break after repeated infringements.

Leinster took their foot off the gas in a scrappy second half after Lowe completed his double on 50 minutes.

Sexton again provided the pass - a long, looping effort out to the left - to find an unmarked Lowe who was able to stroll over.

Toulouse managed to gain territory for the first time and they were handed a lifeline with 15 minutes remaining when Tolofua touched down from a rolling maul and Ramos added the conversion.

Ross Byrne struck a penalty and converted a late Keenan try, with the full-back sprinting through a tired defence as a comprehensive victory was secured.

The Top 14 champions beat Irish pair Ulster and Munster to make the semi-final but Leinster proved too strong and Cullen's men march on to the final.

'We're incredibly proud' - what they said

"We are incredibly proud. Any time you get to a final you are extremely happy but, in some ways, it is only half done," Sexton told BT Sport.

"The last time we were in a final, we were outplayed against Saracens and we didn't turn up on the day. We have to learn from that lesson and hopefully we can go one better this year.

"I'm lucky to be a part of Leinster and Ireland. That's why I'm still playing, because I love coming into both environments. We train hard and it's one of the things we pride ourselves on.

"We knew Toulouse played 100 minutes last week and they came here probably not at their best and we were close to ours. We have to go again against Racing 92 or La Rochelle, who are two quality sides.

"We have been a champion team before and we will draw on all of our experiences."

Leinster: Keenan; J O'Brien, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe; Sexton, Gibson-Park; Porter, Kelleher, Furlong, Molony, Ryan, Doris, Van der Flier, Conan.

Replacements: Sheehan, Healy, Ala'alatoa, McCarthy, Ruddock, McGrath, R Byrne, Frawley.

Toulouse: Ramos; Mallia, Fouyssac, Ahki, Lebel; Ntamack, Dupont; Baille, Marchand, Aldegheri, Arnold, Meafou, Elstadt, Cros, Jelonch.

Replacements: Mauvaka, Neti, Ainu'u, Tekori, Tolofua, Flament, Page-Relo, Holmes.

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