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Dublin: 1 °C Monday 21 January, 2019
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Man-of-the-match Ringrose leads the way for Leinster

The 23-year-old was outstanding for Leo Cullen’s side against Toulouse.

Ryan Bailey reports from the RDS 

RIGHT FROM THE first kick, Garry Ringrose was front and centre, showing a real hunger for responsibility in a Leinster backline shorn of the experience and leadership of key figures.

On an afternoon when the collective unit fired on all cylinders, Leinster’s statement win over Toulouse was also embellished with a number of standout individual performances, not least from their classy number 13.

Garry Ringrose passes to Noel Reid Ringrose was outstanding for Leinster. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The forward pack were imperious in dominating Toulouse at the breakdown and set-piece, but few could argue with the decision to award the man-of-the-match award to Ringrose, who was outstanding in everything he did.

The stats — 47 metres gained, 16 runs, 10 tackles — provide a snapshot of his contribution at the RDS, but Ringrose’s emergence as a leader in this Leinster side, particularly when Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Rob Kearney are not on the park, is unquantifiable.

Even at 23, Ringrose — winning his 59th Leinster cap — was the orchestrator-in-chief, often standing at first receiver, to pull the strings for Leo Cullen’s side, as his playmaking ability, magical dancing feet and defensive prowess in marshalling the outside channels all stood out.

There were two standout moments. Not his half-break and offload out of contact for Rhys Ruddock to gallop upfield during the early exchanges. Or his intelligence off the ball in making excellent defensive reads, or capacity to glide smoothly over the turf and into space.

But his sensational long pass in the build-up to Jack Conan’s first-half try and then a perfectly-weighted grubber in behind the Toulouse defence to pin the French visitors back. Leinster scored their second try through Dave Kearney shortly after. 

“It was a pretty young backline overall but Garry is someone who has grown as a leader all the time,” Cullen said afterwards. “The experience that he has with Leinster, built up over a few years but also at international level, he’s maturing all the time. He is a key player for us.”

Ringrose’s midfield partnership with Rory O’Loughlin continues to blossom as the pair followed up their impressive display against Bath before Christmas with another one here, as Toulouse’s usually destructive backline was subdued. 

As is his natural tendency, Ringrose was quick to deflect any plaudits post-match, as he praised the whole squad for their efforts in earning a crucial bonus-point win which effectively books Leinster’s quarter-final place, and moves them closer to home advantage in the next round.

“You can’t underestimate the work that takes to get a bonus point against Toulouse,” he said.

Yoann Huget with Garry Ringrose and Rory O'Loughlin The centre's defensive work was crucial. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It was a squad effort and the 23 that were lucky enough to go out and represent the whole group. There was still a huge amount of competition for places there and we were well aware of that.

“You have to get everything right if you want to beat them and it took a full 23-man effort to deliver a win there.

“The scoreboard probably flatters us a bit as well. If one or two things had have gone differently, like if an offload stuck for them, the scoreboard may look a little bit different. We’re well aware of that, and it wasn’t perfect from our perspective.

“Whether we win or lose, we have to learn from games like that. Obviously, we’re immensely proud of the effort from everyone to get the win but we’ll still take it as an opportunity to learn.”

The victory maintains Leinster’s impressive home record at their RDS fortress, with the province’s last European defeat here or down the road at the Aviva Stadium way back in December 2015, a winning streak which now stands at 12 games. 

Backed by a capacity Saturday lunchtime crowd, Leinster — playing into a strong breeze in the first period — enjoyed large tracts of possession and territory in the opening 40, as their relentless ball retention eventually wore Toulouse down.

After establishing a commanding scoreboard lead through second-half scores from Dave Kearney and Sean Cronin, who was outstanding again, Leinster were forced to dig deep defensively to repel wave-after-wave of Toulouse red attack. 

In identifying the huge defensive set, when Leinster stood firm through a large number of phases, as a pivotal moment in the game before Adam Byrne’s bonus-point clinching try, Ringrose praised the work of the forwards. 

“It was a big moment [keeping them out],” he admitted. “I have to commend the forwards for the effort they put in there, they really fought tooth and nail for every inch. Certainly, from the forwards perspective, it shows how much it means to them and an opportunity to show the 18,500 people that paid to watch us how much it means to us.”

In that regard, Ringrose and Leinster knew they couldn’t afford to relax once they were ahead, given the threats Toulouse posed and their capacity to score from anywhere.

Jerome Kaino and Garry Ringrose after the game Ringrose shakes hands with Jerome Kaino after the game. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Leinster’s pack, led by Scott Fardy and James Ryan, got through huge work on both sides of the ball, as the two second rows got into double figures on the tackle charts, along with the back row unit of Josh van der Flier, Ruddock and Conan.

The home side’s intensity in attack was bettered only by their obdurate defensive work, as the Toulouse backline — normally so lethal — were met by a blue wall throughout, until the very last minute when Cheslin Kolbe eventually breached the rearguard.

“It certainly felt like it was on a knife-edge for the whole game really, with the quality of attack and players they have,” Ringrose added.

“They can really break you from anywhere and even at times in the second half when we managed to pin them a little bit deeper, we can’t really lapse in concentration at all.

“As they showed in the last play there, if you switch off for one second they can be that dangerous. It was really tough in that regard, that you couldn’t afford to lapse at any stage.”

Now to finish the job against Wasps in Coventry next weekend.

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Ryan Bailey

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