Leinster, typified by fearless out-half Felipe Contepomi, played a brilliant brand of rugby in the cauldron that is the Stadium Municipal, as they dumped champions Toulouse out of the Heineken Cup.
HEINEKEN CUP: QUARTER-FINAL: Saturday, April 1
TOULOUSE 35 LEINSTER 41, Stadium Municipal (Att: 37,815)
Scorers: Toulouse: Tries: Yannick Nyanga, Yannick Jauzion; Cons: Jean-Baptiste Elissalde 2; Pens: Elissalde 6; Drop: Frederic Michalak
Leinster: Tries: Brian O'Driscoll, Shane Horgan, Cameron Jowitt, Denis Hickie; Cons: Felipe Contepomi 3; Pens: Contepomi 5
Leinster recorded an historic victory over Toulouse, the three-time champions, to send themselves through to the Heineken Cup's last-four, setting up an all-Ireland semi-final against Munster at Lansdowne Road on Sunday, April 23 (kick-off 3.00pm).
Michael Cheika's men ran in four tries, and, with the irresistible kicking of man-of-the-match Felipe Contepomi, they built a 20-point lead going into the final quarter that proved enough to dump the hosts, who included former Leinster forward Trevor Brennan in their line-up, out of the competition.
Toulouse started brightly but they were unable to breach the Leinster line, settling instead for the points from the boot of goal kicking-srcum half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde.
But Leinster have a points scoring machine of their own in Contepomi, and early evidence that he had his shooting boots on came on 9, 16 and 20 minutes when he struck over penalty goals to put Leinster noses in front.
They went further ahead when Ireland's Triple Crown try-scoring hero Shane Horgan and Contempomi combined to unlock the Toulouse defence and set up the opening try of the match. Horgan showed his strength to break Frederic Michalak's tackle and a fine offload to Contepomi set the Argentinian off on a powerful run toward the 22. Leinster and Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll took a brilliant arching line in from the left to ghost onto Contepomi's pass, with Vincent Clerc caught out, and score in under the posts. Contepomi added the extras.
Leinster's sizeable travelling support was jubilant, but the visiting fans were quietened slightly five minutes later when referee David Pearson blew for a penalty which Elissalde dispatched to claw three points back.
It was a flowing and open match at this stage, but discipline at this level is so often the deciding factor. And referee Pearson penalised Toulouse time and again at the ruck.
So when Contepomi slotted over his fourth successful penalty kick after 39 minutes, Leinster had a 10-point lead - 19-9 - which they held on to as a rattled Toulouse spluttered through the final moments of the first half.
Guy Noves' Toulouse side came storming out of the second half blocks, and their pressure was converted into points just three minutes in with Ellissalde's fourth penalty. They cut the lead to a solitary point when Ellissalde notched his fifth after 48 mintutes and three minutes later, Michalak added a fine drop goal.
However, the enigmatic Michalak went from hero to villain moment later as, while under pressure from Keith Gleeson, he threw an aimless pass on his own 22-metre line that went straight into the arms of Cameron Jowitt - Leinster's Samoan flanker had the legs to make it over. Contepomi's cool conversion put Leinster eight points to the good.
But as if that was not enough, Denis Hickie, a man on a mission after being edged out for Six Nations recognition, but still as quick as ever, scored a sensational length of the field try on 64 minutes to give the visiting fans real hope of victory. With a burst of speed he shot past the pedestrian Fabien Pelous, and exchanged passes with Gordon D'Arcy before diving over in the left corner for a breath-taking effort.
Those same Leinster fans were sent into raptures when Horgan burst through to score a try of his own on 71 minutes, and when Contepomi added the extras, and a penalty, the visitors hade built a unassailable 20-point lead.
Toulouse made a fist of recovering when French flanker Yannick Nyanga crossed with 10 minutes remaining, and a last-gasp score from fit-again centre Yannick Jauzion narrowed the gap further. But it was too little, too late, and Toulouse were gallingly beaten in their own back yard.
April 23 will mark Leinster's second semi-final appearance in four seasons. French side Perpignan beat them in their 2002/03 semi-final clash at Lansdowne Road.
Toulouse: Clement Poitrenaud; Vincent Clerc, Yannick Jauzion, Florian Fritz, Cedric Heymans; Frederic Michalak, Jean-Baptiste Elissalde; Jean-Baptiste Poux, Yannick Bru (capt), Omar Hasan, Fabien Pelous, Trevor Brennan, Jean Bouilhou, Yannick Nyanga, Finau Maka.
Replacements used: Romain Millo-Chlusky for Brennan (48 mins), Gregory Lamboley for Bouilhou (64), Jean-Frederic Dubois for Michalak (74), Malell Kunavore for Fritz, Gregory Menkarska for Hasan (both 76), Maxime Medard for Poitrenaud (80). Not used: Virgil Lacombe.
Leinster: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Brian O'Driscoll (capt), Gordon D'Arcy, Denis Hickie; Felipe Contepomi, Guy Easterby; Reggie Corrigan, Brian Blaney, Will Green, Bryce Williams, Malcolm O'Kelly, Cameron Jowitt, Keith Gleeson, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements used: Ronan McCormack for Corrigan (54 mins), Robert Kearney for Contepomi (55-58), Eric Miller for Jowitt (61), Robert Kearney for D'Arcy (80), Kieran Lewis for O'Driscoll (80+5). Not used: Brian O'Riordan, David Blaney, Niall Ronan.
Referee: Dave Pearson (England)