Planet Rugby

Leinster toppled in Toulouse

18th November 2007 21:53


Shaun Sowerby v Leinster

On the rampage: Toulouse number eight Shaun Sowerby bursts through the Leinster defence

Toulouse set up a mouth-watering pair of clashes with Leicester Tigers in the Heineken Cup in December, after notching 27 unanswered second-half points to beat Leinster 33-6 at the Stade Ernest-Wallon on Sunday.

The Toulousains flattered to deceive in a disjointed first half, enjoying some 65 per cent of the possession yet ending up tied at 6-6 going into the break.

But tries from Clément Poitrenaud, Valentin Courrent and Cédric Heymans in the third quarter of the match saw the French ease away as the Toulouse backs began to click, and Vincent Clerc iced the cake with a last-minute bonus-point try.

The second half, at least, was classic Toulouse. The forwards worked hard to get the upper hand, and slowly but surely, the finest three-quarter line in Europe found the little holes in Leinster's defence.

Byron Kelleher's introduction at half-time zipped up the service from the scrum and allowed Courrent a precious extra half-yard of space.

He used every inch of it to get his outside men flowing, and with Florian Fritz and Yannick Jauzion gleefully re-united for the first time in a year in the centres, Heymans predatory on the left, Clerc arrow-like on the right, and Poitrenaud dancing from full-back, Leinster had one too many problems to cope with.

The Irish were a very different-looking team to that which steam-rollered Leicester last week. They fought gamely for the first half, but simply looked knackered in the second. Much talk before the game was of their phenomenal tackling and defensive effort that dumped Leicester in Dublin, and whether the Leinstermen could produce it again. They did for a while, but the stamina to do it on two consecutive weekends was lacking.

Where Toulouse were awesome in the second half, they were awful in the first. Both teams were. Knock-ons punctuated most breaks or half-breaks, the line-outs from both teams succeeded at a rate of less than 60 per cent, and according to the television cameras, the ball spent a paltry 8 per cent of playing time in the 22s.

Leinster had a breeze behind them, and Felipe Contempomi bashed the ball downfield for much of the opening ten minutes. Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and Courrent bashed the ball back far less effectively, and Leinster enjoyed the territory early on, capitalised upon with an early Contempomi penalty.

There were not many penalties in the first half, largely because the moves rarely lasted long enough to put either defence under enough pressure to concede them. Elissalde made the first clean break after 11 minutes, but dropped the ball trying to offload it, Courrent tore away down the right but hesitated to pass long enough for Rob Kearney to bundle him into touch.

Toulouse equalised after 16 minutes when Elissalde landed a penalty, the second one in a row conceded by Ollie Le Roux, who was systematically dismantled at scrum time by Jean-Baptiste Poux.

Courrent gave the home team the lead with a drop goal, two phases after Maleli Kunavore had been set free down the left by Poitrenaud and been beaten marginally to his grubber by Kearney.

Contempomi restored parity with a long penalty on the half-hour mark, and that was the sum total of the action for the first period, bar a broken ankle for Leinster scrum-half Chris Whitaker.

Elissalde had also taken a knock in the first half, and he was replaced by Kelleher for the second. Suddenly Toulouse's superiority was made to tell. Within two minutes, Fritz was worked into space, and he sent through a delicious kick for Heymans.

The international wing burst past Girvan Dempsey on the outside, before popping the ball inside over three covering Leinster heads for Poitrenaud to saunter towards the posts and score. Incredibly, Courrent missed the conversion, but Toulouse held an 11-6 lead.

Leinster began to look a little desperate outside the scrum, and the backs pushed up flat in attack. Twice it nearly cost them handsomely, with both Heymans and Clerc whiskers away from picking off intercepts.

Kelleher set up the second try, grubbering through. Kearney cleaned up, but saw his clearance kick charged down by Yannick Nyanga, who got the ball away for Courrent to canter to the line. This time the fly-half landed the extras.

With Leinster tiring, Toulouse found more space and swung the ball back and forth across the field, waiting for the cover to thin out. Eventually Kelleher found the hole with another kick through, which sat up one metre over the line for Heymans to pounce. Again Courrent converted.

Now it was just a case of if Toulouse would score the precious fourth try. For a while, they sat on their lead using the fresh legs of Finau Maka in particular to wear Leinster down even more.

Then, with a minute left, Courrent went on an arcing run, drew his defender expertly, and popped the ball to Clerc on the angle. The nippy little winger was tap-tackled 5m from the line, but scrambled his limbs to get the ball to its destination, and his team to theirs.

Toulouse now lead Pool Six, with Leicester in second. Next up the clashes between the two at Welford Road and then back in France. It's going to be some weekend!

Man of the match: A tough one to call, with nobody really impressing in the first period, but for his work-rate throughout all that was both bad and good, Yannick Nyanga picks up the award. His backs should be very grateful to him.

The scorers:

For Toulouse:

Tries: Poitrenaud, Courrent, Heymans, Clerc

Cons: Courrent 2

Pens: Elissalde, Courrent

Drop goal: Courrent

For Leinster:

Pens: Contempomi 2

Toulouse: 15 Clément Poitrenaud, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Yannick Jauzion (c), 12 Maleli Kunavore, 11 Cédric Heymans, 10 Valentin Courrent, 9 Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, 8 Shaun Sowerby, 7 Thierry Dusautoir, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Fabien Pelous, 3 Jean-Baptiste Poux, 2 William Servat, 1 Daan Human.

Replacements: 16 Alberto Vernet Basualdo, 17 O Hasan, 18 Romain Millo-Chlusky, 19 Grégory Lamboley, 20 Byron Kelleher, 21 Florian Fritz, 22 Finau Maka.

Leinster: 15 Girvan Dempsey, 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (c), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Rob Kearney, 10 Felipe Contepomi, 9 Chris Whitaker, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Keith Gleeson, 6 Shane Jennings, 5 Malcolm O'Kelly, 4 Leo Cullen, 3 Stan Wright, 2 Bernard Jackman, 1 Ollie le Roux.

Replacements: 16 Brian Blaney, 17 Juan Gomez, 18 Cameron Jowitt, 19 Kevin McLaughlin, 20 Cillian Willis, 21 Christian Warner, 22 Luke Fitzgerald.

Referee: Chris White (England)

Touch judges: Roy Maybank (England), Stuart Terheege (England)

Television match official: Geoff Warren (England)

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