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Leinster lose out again as Toulouse win sixth Euro star

Heartache for Leinster. Again.

That the team are well used to post-mortems of this nature won’t make the dissection of this defeat any easier.

Leo Cullen’s side became the first team to lose four Investec Champions Cup finals, including the last three in a row, as they fell to a 31-22 defeat to Toulouse at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The French champions were too smart, too clinical when it mattered and Leinster failed to reach anything close to their best in a game that went into extra time.

Leinster never led throughout the affair and Ugo Mola’s side, with man of the match Antoine Dupont superb, earned a record extending sixth star.

After impressing along the way to the final, beating defending champions La Rochelle twice, Leinster must once again go back to the drawing board to find a way to bridge a six-year gap to their last European win.

Ross Byrne and Ciarán Frawley kicked the penalties for Leinster, while Blair Kinghorn and Thomas Ramos fired over for Toulouse as the game ended 15-15 after 80 minutes.

James Lowe was in the sin-bin when Mathis Lebel got the first try of the game, and while Josh van der Flier hit back for Leinster, they were too ill-disciplined, and the accurate boot of Ramos steered Toulouse over the line.

It was nothing if not a nervy start from Leinster and they struggled to find a rhythm amidst numerous handling errors and sloppy passes.

They survived an early scare when Jamison Gibson-Park dragged Dupont into touch close to the tryline before he could get his pass away.

Toulouse got the first score on the board when Jamie Osborne was penalised after carrying the ball into traffic and Kinghorn found his target from the halfway line.

The same centre again got penalised a few minutes later and the Scottish full-back floated over another from distance.

It was frantic stuff from both sides and Leinster threatened after Pita Ahki, who retired injured in the 23rd minute, dallied under the restart and allowed Jason Jenkins to snatch the ball.

Lowe made hole in midfield but his pass just evaded Gibson-Park before Robbie Henshaw passed the ball behind Byrne to kill the move.

Ryan Baird was lording it at the lineout but the French side were better at the breakdown.

Byrne went to the air and, while it caused some havoc, Leinster weren’t clinical enough to take advantage.

Alexandre Roumat saved an almost certain try before a fierce Caelan Doris tackle on Romain Ntamack paved the way for Leinster to get on the board with a Byrne penalty in the 19th minute.

Hugo Keenan and Dan Sheehan made lung-bursting runs but the scramble Toulouse defence won jackal penalties close to their own line; Ntamack and Dupont the defenders saving the day for the French.

Down the other end Paul Costes was stopped short and Baird was needed to clear the danger after Lowe had a kick blocked down.

Kinghorn added a third penalty three minutes before the break when Andrew Porter was penalised at the scrum and Byrne then put the restart out on the full.

However, it was Leinster who had the last say of the half. Kinghorn dropped another shot at goal short and the Irish side worked their way into the Toulouse 22.

Lowe thought he had scored in the corner but the play was called back for a knock on and Byrne reduced the margin to three deep into overtime.

James Ryan came on for Jenkins at the break after the South African took a heavy knock from a Paul Chocobares tackle.

There was simply no room in midfield for Leinster and Toulouse’s wide men were snappier at the breakdown.

Baird won a jackal penalty over Kinghorn but Roumat got a hand to Sheehan’s throw at the subsequent lineout to frustrate Leinster.

But Byrne got Leinster, who introduced Van der Flier for Will Connors, on level terms eight minutes into the half after Toulouse went offside at the breakdown.

Jordan Larmour came in off his wing to create an extra man for Leinster and Lowe and Keenan threatened before Jack Willis went off his feet.

As is Leinster’s default, Byrne turned down the chance to give Cullen’s side he lead and Toulouse won a scrum when the maul broke up.

But the Top14 champions couldn’t extricate themselves and Porter and Henshaw made ground through the middle before Chocobares came up with an incredible steal close to the line.

Moments later, after Toulouse had introduced Rory Arnold and Julien Marchand, Ryan went offside in midfield and Kinghorn put the French back in front from 40 metres out.

Leinster, last winners in 2018, responded, winning a scrum penalty and a limping Byrne kicked to the corner.

A few passages later Toulouse went offside under the sticks and Byrne landed his fourth penalty of the day to tie things up with 15 minutes on the clock.

Lebel looked to have scored a winning try with just over ten minutes to play but Larmour did enough to stop the winger’s athletic touchdown attempt, replays needed to confirm a foot in touch.

Ciarán Frawley misses a late drop goal attempt

But they were soon back in the lead when Leinster came in from the side at a maul allowing replacement Ramos to kick a penalty with just nine minutes left.

Leinster had one last chance. Ntamack fumbled a Frawley up and under, yielding a scrum, which led to a penalty, just outside the 22.

This time there was no discussion to be had and Frawley, who missed a late drop goal to win it, sent the game to extra-time.

Leinster’s cause wasn’t helped when Lowe was sent to the bin just two minutes into the third period for deflecting a Dupont offload into touch.

Ramos pushed his penalty wide but it was only a temporary reprieve.

With Frawley down injured after a heavy tackle attempt on Kinghorn, Leinster were down to 13 and Chocobares spotted the mismatch and took advantage, his midfield run fixing Keenan before feeding a speeding Lebel, who raced in for a converted try.

Dupont kicked a 50:22 soon after as the Toulouse faithful began to hug in celebration to the strains of Le Marseillaise.

Leinster began to wilt, again.

Rónan Kelleher went off his feet at the breakdown and Ramos tapped over the easiest kick of the day to make it a two-score game with just 12 minutes left for Leinster to rescue the game.

Gibson-Park was penalised moments later for holding but a replay showed Richie Arnold barging into Cian Healy’s head at the ruck and the Australian saw red and the prop, making a record 112 Champions Cup appearance, belatedly went off for a HIA.

It was a huge momentum shift, Porter replaced Healy and Lowe’s sin-bin time elapsed.

They struck from the next attack; Van der Flier snuck over for a try that took referee Matthew Carley, whose on-field decision was no try, an age to confirm and Frawley coolly added the extras.

Soon into the second period Doris went off his feet at a breakdown and Ramos added three, repeating the trick moments later when Healy found himself isolated in midfield.

It was Toulouse who earned another star and Leinster are left to stew on yet another heartbreaking final loss.


Leinster: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Robbie Henshaw, Jamie Osborne, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong; Joe McCarthy, Jason Jenkins; Ryan Baird, Will Connors, Caelan Doris (capt).

Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Michael Ala’alatoa, James Ryan, Jack Conan, Luke McGrath, Ciarán Frawley, Josh van der Flier.

Toulouse: Blair Kinghorn; Juan Cruz Mallia, Paul Costes, Pita Ahki, Matthis Lebel; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (capt); Cyril Baille, Peato Mauvaka, Dorian Aldegheri; Thibaud Flament, Emmanuel Meafou; Jack Willis, Francois Cros, Alexandre Roumat.

Replacements: Julien Marchand, Rodrigue Neti, Joel Merkler, Richie Arnold, Joshua Brennan, Paul Graou, Santiago Chocobares, Thomas Ramos.

Referee: Matthew Carley (RFU)


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