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'Leinster had no intention of playing' - The French papers react to Toulon's win

Leinster left Marseille ‘alive, standing, and always ambitious,’ says one paper.

Murray Kinsella reports from Marseille

LEINSTER’S DEFEAT TO Toulon in the Champions Cup semi-finals yesterday brought Irish involvement in European competition to an end for the season.

Clermont’s win over Saracens on Saturday means a repeat of the 2013 Heineken Cup decider in this year’s final at Twickenham on 2 May. 

We took a look through the pages of some of France’s newspapers this morning to see what they’re saying about Leinster’s loss in Marseille.

Midi Olympique

Midol Source: Midi Olympique

The front page of this morning’s edition of Midi Olympique declares Toulon and Clermont ‘Kings of Europe,’ a sentiment that is difficult to disagree with after both advanced to the final.

Journalist Léo Faure directs his attention to Matt O’Connor’s beaten side under the headline ‘Leinster are eternal’.

The article points out that the Irish province can no longer rely on the “cool mastery” of Johnny Sexton, the “genius” of Brian O’Driscoll, the “science” of Isa Nacewa, nor the “inexhaustible annoyance that is the two metres of Leo Cullen.”

However, Faure says no one will ever be able to take Leinster’s “collective control” from them. “Jimmy Gopperth is not Sexton and Ian Madigan, as strong-willed and promising as he is, doesn’t have a quarter of the talent of his holiness BOD,” continues the article.

“Fortified by this analysis, O’Connor and his men favour pragmatism, concentrating their efforts on the basics of the game,” writes Faure. Leinster came to Marseille focused on defence, the gain line and leaned on the power of their pack, suggests Midol.

XV Source: Midi Olympique

Quoting O’Connor’s pride at the Leinster performance, the same piece points to the Irish province’s misfortune to hit the post twice with kicks, while also commenting that they could have been better under the high ball.

Faure finishes be saying O’Connor’s men will have regrets, but “Leinster are alive, standing, and always ambitious.”

Elsewhere, Midol picks out Sean O’Brien, Jordi Murphy, Mike McCarthy, Sean Cronin and Cian Healy as Leinster’s leading performers, although Madigan is criticised for the “floating, long, nonsensical pass” that led to Bryan Habana’s try.

L’Équipe

L'Équipe Source: L'Équipe

‘Toulon prolong the dream,’ reads the headline over L’Équipe’s two-page spread dedicated to the Champions Cup weekend.

“We wouldn’t like to be in Matt O’Connor’s head this morning,” writes Arnaud Requenna in the lead article. “In 2014, in the quarter-final at Stade Mayol, the Irish attempted to rival Toulon with a high-tempo game plan featuring lots of passing.”

“At half time, it was going well [6-6], before an implosion that was bigger than the final scoreline suggested [29-14],” continues Requenna. “Yesterday, the Australian O’Connor opted for a radically different game plan: we’ll do nothing, make nothing of nothing, we’ll turn the screw on Toulon.

“It nearly worked. Nearly… This dish will prove complicated to swallow.”

Elsewhere, L’Équipe look ahead to Toulon’s chance for a remarkable third European title in a row, while they also deal with Frédéric Michalak’s confusion at being substituted in the 47th minute, though it’s arguable whether or not Toulon would have gone on to win if Bernard Laporte hadn’t made that change.

In a separate article, Bruno Vigoureux says the 10-minutes Ali Williams spent in the sin bin were the decisive ones of the game, as Toulon were “even stronger with 14.”

La Provence

LaP Source: The42

The Marseille edition of La Provence has large photos of Toulon celebrating on the front pages of the main newspaper and the pull-out sports section, the headlines reading ‘For the History…’ and ‘Toulon prolong the pleasure.’

The focus here is almost entirely on Laporte’s men, Leinster only really entering the discussion by way of the “pass that was a long time flying” into Habana’s hands for the crucial score in the game.

Laurent Blanchard does praise the “impeccable organisation of the Irish” on the front page of the sports section, saying they had a chance to “definitively detach themselves from Toulon with two minutes of normal time left, but for an insufficiently-adjusted drop goal effort from Gopperth.”

On page two, Éric Breton says Leinster came to Marseille “nourished by the possibility of revenge” and “with no intention of playing, nor making it a spectacle.” Breton’s piece centres around praise for Toulon’s “two Hs of war”, Leigh Halfpenny and Habana.

La Provence has a photo of Brian O’Driscoll at Stade Vélodrome, simply titled “he was there.” There is further discussion of Michalak’s early exit, while the back page of the sports section features praise for the supporters of both teams in Marseille.

Aujourd’hui en France

IMAG0112 Source: The42

Habana adorns the front page of Aujourd’hui under the headline ‘Toulon aim for the treble’, while the South African’s photo is also splashed across the lead rugby page at the back of the newspaper.

“Where is Bryan?” asks Mathieu Grégoire in English on the same page, before reverting to French: “Bryan is behind the opposition’s tryline! By offering up a magisterial interception crowned by a swan dive, Habana abruptly soothed Toulon’s nerves in Marseille.”

The article points out that Toulon no longer have Jonny Wilkinson to see out games, but they do have “the metronome of a talent, Leigh Halfpenny.”

“He almost gave his body to science under the Irish assault,” writes Grégoire, “and saved many dangerous situations with his assured kicking game.”

Letter from Marseille: Leinster exit as French power prevails in Europe

Standout display against Toulon the latest in Murphy’s Leinster repertoire

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Murray Kinsella

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