Toulouse win extra-time thriller against Leinster to claim SIXTH Champions Cup title

Planet Rugby
Stade Toulousain players lift the trophy following the Investec Champions Cup final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London.

Antoine Dupont lifts the Champions Cup trophy after the final.

Toulouse picked up an incredible sixth European star after they edged Leinster 31-22 in an Investec Champions Cup thriller that went to extra-time on Saturday afternoon.

It was an absorbing final from start to finish as the 61,531 in attendance at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and those watching at home were treated to an epic arm-wrestle.

Four penalties apiece from Blair Kinghorn and Thomas Ramos were added to by an extra-time score from Matthis Lebel that was converted by Ramos in a famous win.

Leinster responded with an extra-time try of their own through Josh van der Flier with Ross Byrne and Ciaran Frawley adding points as they suffer yet another final defeat.

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Despite the perfect conditions neither side were able to score a try until Toulouse‘s Lebel struck early in a period of extra time that created a series of momentum shifts all of its own.

The French champions were helped by James Lowe being shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on, but that advantage was quickly wiped out when lock Richie Arnold was sent off.

Ramos provided the decisive points, with three penalties taking them out of reach as Toulouse came on strong despite being a man down.

It was hard to endure for the hoards of Leinster fans in the crowd, who have now seen their side lose to French opposition in three consecutive Champions Cup finals and whose last sight of silverware was the 2021 United Rugby Championship.

Toulouse were on the ropes for long spells, yet they made the stronger start by going close to touching down and then creeping ahead through two Kinghorn penalties.

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Byrne’s penalty rewarded a promising spell for Leinster, who then attacked with precision off a scrum only for Toulouse to show their breakdown expertise for the second of Robbie Henshaw’s two breaks.

That skill also came to the red shirts’ rescue on the half-hour mark after Dan Sheehan had pick-pocketed the ball from Antoine Dupont during a pre-planned move and almost won the race for the line, but Kinghorn made a crucial tackle and Dupont then won the turnover.

Kinghorn and Byrne exchanged penalties to send Leinster into half-time 9-6 down despite their dominance of territory and possession, as well as every other attacking metric.

For all their entries into the opposition 22 they were often leaving empty-handed, making Byrne’s penalty soon after the interval a positive development.

Toulouse showed remarkable resilience as they defended their line in a one-sided third quarter, but the failure to capitalise on a dominant period also highlighted Leinster’s inability to build a score.

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Kinghorn and Byrne traded kicks once more before three points from replacement Ramos nudged Toulouse in front. Lebel almost crossed in the left corner after the French side attacked with precision off turnover ball.

Leinster senior coach Jacques Nienaber was barking commands from the sideline having taken on the role of waterboy and he watched as Frawley landed a penalty to take the match into extra time at 15-15.

Toulouse were the first to strike with a simple but effective try for Lebel that showcased the France wing’s lightning pace as they benefited from Lowe’s sin-binning. Ramos converted.

Arnold was sent off for a dangerous clearout of Cian Healy and the dismissal galvanised Leinster, who surged downfield for Van der Flier to cross from close range with Frawley adding the extras.

But Ramos was the next to score with a penalty and the France fly-half coolly proceeded to boot Toulouse out of reach as they scored more points in extra time, 16, than during the 80 minutes.

The teams

Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Jamie Osborne, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris (c), 7 Will Connors, 6 Ryan Baird, 5 Jason Jenkins, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter
Replacements: 16 Rónan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Michael Ala’alatoa, 19 James Ryan, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ciarán Frawley, 23 Josh van der Flier

Toulouse: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Juan Cruz Mallia, 13 Paul Costes, 12 Pita Ahki, 11 Matthis Lebel, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont (c), 8 Alexandre Roumat, 7 Jack Willis, 6 François Cros, 5 Emmanuel Meafou, 4 Thibaud Flament, 3 Dorian Aldegheri, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Rodrigue Neti, 18 Joel Merkler, 19 Richie Arnold, 20 Joshua Brennan, 21 Paul Graou, 22 Santiago Chocobares, 23 Thomas Ramos

Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant Referees: Karl Dickson (England), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Ian Tempest (England)

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