Leinster continues to be the bane of Stade Toulousain. As in 2018 and 2022, the Irish brought down the red and black in the semi-final of the Champions Cup, Saturday April 29, at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin (41-22). In this meeting between the two most successful teams in Europe (Toulouse has five stars on its jersey, Leinster four), it was the Irish who took the best of their rivals, taking advantage in particular of the power of their forwards, dominating this afternoon. Like last year, the Irish could find La Rochelle in the final. If they want to keep their title, the Maritimes will first have to get rid of the English from Exeter tomorrow (4 p.m.), in Bordeaux.
“The score is very heavy todayconceded the Toulouse scrum-half Antoine Dupont at the microphone of France 2 at the end of the match. We take too many points at the start of the match, at this level it does not forgive. Leinster feeds on the slightest of our mistakes, and then it becomes hard to come back. We experienced the same disappointment last season, we will have to remobilize to get something in the Top 14. “
Last season, Toulouse came to Aviva Stadium with a weakened team, which had to fight until the end of extra time and penalties to get rid of Munster. Taking advantage of a comfortable lead at the top of the Top 14, Toulouse coach Ugo Mola had this time been able to rotate his team last week in the league (defeat against Stade Français, 19 to 10).
More precise, faster and more disciplined
The red and black thus had a freshness that was not too much. Especially since Leinster had also put its best players to rest by sending a largely experimental team against the Bulls last weekend (beaten… 62 to 7) in the United Rugby Championship, a competition bringing together teams from Wales, Ireland, Italian, Scottish and South African.
On Saturday, there was revenge in the (wet) air of Dublin, and an air of the Six Nations Tournament. Three months after the titanic duel delivered by France and Ireland on the same lawn (won by the XV of Clover 32-19), the players were more or less the same for this Champions Cup meeting, Leinster and Toulouse being the main providers of their national selections. And four months before the World Cup (September 8-October 28), the Irish took the opportunity to mark their French rivals a little more.
Despite a quick try from Toulouse by their New Zealand center Pita Ahki (9e), the start of the meeting thus looked like a solo rider from the province of Dublin. More precise, faster and above all more disciplined than the red and black, the Irish struck three times in the first half, notably in power by their third line Jack Conan (17e). The Leinstermen mainly benefited from the yellow card received by Thomas Ramos on a voluntary forward along the sideline (16e). “We paid dearly for our numerical inferiority. These ten minutes to fourteen cost 14 points”regretted Ugo Mola at half-time on France 2.
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop 💁♂️ Jack Conan makes it 2️⃣ in the space of 5️⃣ minutes 🔥 #HeinekenChampionsCup |… https://t.co/oP2BVv3JLA
“It’s a shame, because as soon as we hold the ball we do interesting things”, abounded the third row François Cros. The Toulousains had had the opportunity to prove it a few minutes earlier with a strong try from their overpowering Australian second line Emmanuel Meaffou (35e). An action during which the Irish pillar Andrew Porter was guilty of a “cathedral tackle” on Juan Cruz Mallia, which was not controlled on video in a rather inexplicable way by the English referee Wayne Barnes.
If the second half offered some hope to the Toulouse supporters scattered around the stadium, it ended up being very similar to the first. The Haut-Garonne were the first to stand out with a penalty from Thomas Ramos (56e), but again paid dearly for their indiscipline. Just entering the game, the pillar Rodrigue Neti was sanctioned with a yellow card for a head-to-head contact on the best player in the world 2022, Josh Van der Flier (57e).
In numerical superiority, the Irish took advantage wonderfully of the spaces in the opposing defense, and were able to rely on the house specialty: the balls carried. Resigned, the Toulousains finally let go and took two new tries in stride.
However, the Irish presented themselves at the Aviva Stadium with a team notably amputated from their master to play Johnny Sexton (37 years old), injured in the adductors during the Six Nations Tournament, and their stars James Lowe (30 years old) and Robbie Henshaw (29). Three experienced players whose absences could have been expensive, but who were largely compensated by the performances of their substitutes. The opener Ross Byrne was particularly perfect in the conduct of the game of his team, and imperial against the poles (16 points on foot).