James Lowe doubled in Leinster’s Champions Cup demolition of Toulouse | Champions Cup
Penalty joy for Toulouse in Dublin last week, but barely more than a punishment seven days later. Leinster produced one of the most emphatic performances in recent European history to sink the defending champions and reach a sixth final.
It was just as dominant as the scoreline suggests and while the Aviva Stadium was a sea of blue, having been painted Munster red seven days ago, it might as well have been green. Leinster are a test side in all but name.
They have fielded 13 Irish internationals in their starting XV and the same number of players in their 23 who have faced France in Paris this year. Toulouse aren’t exactly short of Test players themselves, but for all their counter-attacking threats and star man at scrum-half in Antoine Dupont, they simply couldn’t live with Leinster’s power and poise. .
Leinster scored four tries, two coming from James Lowe who is now one behind Chris Ashton’s season record of 11. They were breakdown destructive, teeming with the intention that recent champions Saracens were used to to do, and with Josh van der Flier further cementing his reputation as one of the best opensides around. But above all, there was a finesse to Leinster’s game that Toulouse couldn’t handle.
Johnny Sexton reveled in the kind of afternoon a fly-half of his caliber should have with his team enjoying so much fastball. Indeed, he was far from the only one to show his skills, but whether it was flat passes for the oncoming Garry Ringrose or accurate cross kicks to his back three, it was a supreme demonstration.
It was quickly followed by a determination to ensure that they repaired their Final defeat 2019 against Saracens. “I never thought I would get another chance so it’s great and we’re so motivated to put a fifth star on the shirt,” said the 36-year-old. “We have to go to the final but that’s not where we set our aspirations.”
All told, it’s the kind of performance that will resonate all the way to Lens, where Racing 92 take on La Rochelle on Sunday for the right to face Leinster in the final.
Whether Tadhg Furlong will be fit for this game remains to be seen, with the Irish prop limping after 17 minutes having already demonstrated his delightful dexterity with fine short passes and a spectacular long-range ball to Hugo Keenan on the left.
Keenan then fought his way into the Toulouse 22 but Jamison Gibson-Park’s grubber was grabbed by Dupont, who was left with a clear run to the try line. While it was a reminder of the dangers Toulouse posed, it was also a wake-up call for Leinster, who responded with tries from Lowe and Van der Flier before half-time.
Furlong’s departure gave Toulouse the ascendancy in the scrum and with it a foothold, but they were unable to add to the scoreboard beyond a Tomas Ramos penalty. Dupont faltered in previews, but an extended period before half-time when Toulouse moved through phase after phase roughly halfway before a wayward pass, which went straight into touch, summed up their first half. Emmanuel Meafou was in deep trouble at this point, his frustration obviously getting the better of him.
Toulouse’s luck was still not there after the restart – Jack Conan was lucky to escape a yellow card for a move on Romain Ntamack – but if they feel they have not had their share of the decisions of the referee, Karl Dickson, this is not the reason. why they lost.
Lowe’s second try came with half an hour remaining – an unsurprising effort after Sexton’s long pass – and while Toulouse responded with a close-range try from a maul through Selevasio Tolofua, the game was long over for them.
Keenan’s late try – just a desert for his performance – put the exclamation mark on Leinster’s dominance.
In the Toulouse defence, and as Sexton pointed out, they played 100 minutes against Munster, went home and came back to Dublin, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the petrol light sometimes flashes . Head coach Ugo Mola was magnanimous in defeat but conceded the French domestic league was not preparing Toulouse for European success in the same way as Leinster.
“If I take the average [number of games this season] Irish players and for French players it’s maybe double that,” he said. “Honestly, I think it’s the best competition, but the Top 14 doesn’t prepare us for this competition.”
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