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Leinster Lose Grip On European Crown

Leinster Lose Grip On European Crown

Two tries from Yannick Jauzion and David Skrela in the space of five second half minutes proved the difference between the sides as Toulouse ended Leinster’s Heineken Cup reign with a 26-16 defeat.


TOULOUSE 26 LEINSTER 16, Stade Municipal

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Scorers: Toulouse: Tries: Yannick Jauzion, David Skrela; Cons: David Skrela 2; Pens: David Skrela 4
Leinster: Try: Jamie Heaslip; Con: Shaun Berne; Pens: Shaun Berne 2, Rob Kearney

Leinster saw their Heineken Cup crown slip through their fingers after being outfought at the Stade Municipal, as Toulouse qualified for the May 22 decider in Paris.

The defending champions were defiant until the end but paid the price for leaking two quick-fire tries to Yannick Jauzion and David Skrela in the space of five minutes, around the hour mark.

Man-of-the-match Skrela had the greatest impact on the scoreboard with a 16-point kicking haul topped by his superb try, but Toulouse’s scrum also did major damage.

Leinster suffered badly at times in the set-piece and Michael Cheika tried ‘to change the picture a little bit’ when introducing CJ van der Linde for Cian Healy towards the end of the first half.

Toulouse, the tournament favourites and three-time winners, had the perfect platform to attack while Leinster, whose lineout functioned well, often had to feed off scraps.

Jamie Heaslip’s 65th-minute try gave the 4,000 travelling fans brief hope of a revival but that was soon extinguished when Skrela hit a fourth penalty to put Toulouse back in command.

Leinster took to the pitch with their Ireland out-half Jonathan Sexton (fractured jaw), but Shaun Berne proved a capable deputy, finishing with 11 points in a flawless display with the boot.

Berne was subjected to a physical introduction when Cedric Heymans clattered him into touch amid a thunderous opening from Toulouse that ended with a Skrela penalty.

Using a pair of high kicks from Isa Nacewa and Berne and clever hands from Brian O’Driscoll, Leinster rallied and began asking questions of the home defence.

Centre Florian Fritz replied with a bone-jarring hit on Rob Kearney and then Leinster were driven back 10 metres at a scrum, just moments after their line had been pounded by Leo Cullen and company.

Skrela kicked a second penalty but Leinster won the tactical jockeying that followed and almost crossed in the 23rd minute when Eoin Reddan jinked his way to the whitewash.

All that was left was to dot the ball down but a double tackle from Byron Kelleher and Vincent Clerc saw the ball slip agonisingly from the Leinster scrum half’s fingertips.

Cheika’s side were more creative in attack but were being outmuscled at scrum time, hurtling backwards once again to enable Skrela to extend the lead.

The flow of points was stemmed when Berne settled his nerves with a penalty and, after Leinster had scrapped like dogs over a succession of loose balls, he nailed a second on the stroke of half-time for a 9-6 deficit.

Replacement Maxime Medard had a try ruled out by television match official Graham Hughes, three minutes after the interval – his legs were out when he attempted to touch down before the end-line – and it was the visitors who struck next with full-back Rob Kearney blasting a long range penalty through the posts to level a tense encounter. 

In wet conditions, Leinster were attacking the gain-line with intent but their scrum disintegrated, though this time Skrela missed the penalty.

Shane Horgan, who foraged well as Leinster went the aerial route, executed a try-saving tackled on Heymans as Toulouse moved through the gears, but the French giants did power over moments later.

Stationed on the Leinster try-line, the home forwards probed until the ball was released to Jauzion who rode tackles from Cullen and Berne to crash over.

Skrela converted and then improved his own try after crossing in 60th minute having stepped off his left to foil the Leinster midfield and gallop in under the posts.

Far from caving in, Leinster responded with a magnificent try five minutes later through Heaslip.

Reddan’s slashing run, set by Gordon D’Arcy who collected O’Driscoll’s neat kick, was halted inches short of the line but Toulouse were stretched with Nacewa’s miss pass to Heaslip enabling the number 8 to slide in at the left corner with Berne converting for a 23-16 scoreline.

The fightback was brief, however, as Skrela slotted a fourth penalty to send Toulouse deservedly through to their second Heineken Cup final in three years.

Speaking after the game, Leinster’s try scorer Heaslip said: “We lost and Toulouse probably deserved it on the day, but it wasn’t for the lack of heart on our side.

“They contested very well, so full credit to them, and we can’t have too many complaints. We were very confident coming into the game and we had belief in our game-plan, but some things just didn’t come off for us.

“Slips in concentration at critical times undid us and we weren’t clinical enough which is just the way it goes. Some games you win, some you lose.

“I don’t think that it will be an easy pill for us to swallow but the beauty of rugby is that there’s always another day and another game to focus on.”

TIME LINE: 3 minutes – Toulouse penalty: David Skrela – 3-0; 15 mins – Toulouse penalty: David Skrela – 6-0; 30 mins – Toulouse penalty: David Skrela – 9-0; 33 mins – Leinster penalty: Shaun Berne – 9-3; 40+1 mins – Leinster penalty: Shaun Berne – 9-6; Half-time – Toulouse 9 Leinster 6; 44 mins – Leinster penalty: Rob Kearney – 9-9; 56 mins – Toulouse try: Yannick Jauzion – 14-9; conversion: David Skrela – 16-9; 60 mins – Toulouse try: David Skrela – 21-9; conversion: David Skrela – 23-9; 65 mins – Leinster try: Jamie Heaslip – 23-14; conversion: Shaun Berne – 23-16; 71 mins – Toulouse penalty: David Skrela – 26-16; Full-time – Toulouse 26 Leinster 16

TOULOUSE: Clement Poitrenaud; Vincent Clerc, Florian Fritz, Yannick Jauzion, Cedric Heymans; David Skrela, Byron Kelleher; Daan Human, William Servat, Benoit Lecouls, Romain Millo-Chluski, Patricio Albacete, Jean Bouilhou, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Shaun Sowerby.

Replacements used: Maxime Medard for Heymans (half-time), Jean-Baptiste Poux for Lecouls (44 mins), Yoann Maestri for Millo-Chluski (56), Yohan Montes for Human (71), Louis Picamoles for Sowerby (72), Jean-Baptiste Elissalde for Skrela (73), Virgile Lacombe for Servat (74). Not used: Yann David. 

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Isa Nacewa; Shaun Berne, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, John Fogarty, Stan Wright, Leo Cullen (capt), Nathan Hines, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements used: CJ van der Linde for Healy (32 mins), Stephen Keogh for Jennings (51), Cian Healy for Wright (56), Malcolm O’Kelly for McLaughlin (66), Mike Ross for van der Linde (75). Not used: Bernard Jackman, Paul O’Donohoe, Eoin O’Malley, Girvan Dempsey.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)