James Lowe shows his frustration. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Leinster's inability to convert in the 22 central to Toulouse defeat

The Irish province had 18 visits into the Toulouse 22 but only managed one try.

FINALS ARE SO often about teams taking their chances and Leinster weren’t able to do that yesterday.

The Irish province had 18 possessions in the Toulouse 22 and scored just one try. 18 entries into the 22 is a huge number for any team, so Leinster had plenty of opportunity.

Their return of 0.82 points per visit in this final was jarringly low.

Toulouse had seven visits to Leinster’s 22 for a return of 1.86 points per visit, which isn’t a huge number but was clearly better.

It was a rip-roaring game in which the level of drama was hard to keep pace with. Leinster more than played their part and they were within a metre of winning the game in the last minute of regular time when Ciarán Frawley’s drop-goal attempt crept wide.

Leinster did many things well in this final. Their scrum was huge, their lineout was largely strong after they backed Ryan Baird to call it, they had massive individual performers like Andrew Porter, Caelan Doris, and Dan Sheehan, they had some spectacular moments of scramble defence, and some of their build-up attack was good.

But when they review the game in the cold light of day, they’ll surely feel they had more than enough opportunity to get into a winning position. They never led in this game but should have after a first half in which they turned the ball over far too often in Toulouse territory.

Their first visit to the 22 set the tone. Toulouse let a restart bounce, Jason Jenkins grabbed it but Leinster swiftly turned the ball over.


Joe McCarthy has had some superb offloads for Leinster this season but this is one he’ll have rued as it proves too difficult for Hugo Keenan to hang onto.

There is a hint of opportunity out on the left but Leinster are on just the second phase of possession in the Toulouse 22 nearly eight minutes into the game, so it’s not a time for forcing things.

They’re back soon after, though, as James Lowe bursts through the Toulouse defence and nearly finds Jamison Gibson-Park on the inside.


Blair Kinghorn hasn’t committed fully into a tackle on Lowe as he offloads so perhaps the Toulouse fullback would have stopped Gibson-Park, but the Leinster scrum-half is lightning quick.

As it is, the offload doesn’t go to hand but Leinster manage to retain possession and win a penalty wide on the right, close to the five-metre line. It’s no guarantee for a shot at goal, so Leinster go into the corner.

Their maul is stopped so Leinster switch into their tight carrying game before a rare decision to try to move the ball wide without penalty advantage.


Often, attacking teams only look to move the ball wide this close to the tryline once they’ve earned a penalty advantage but Leinster have a planned play here that involves Gibson-Park standing off the ruck and passing from a standing position.

Centre Robbie Henshaw has an option to hit fullback Hugo Keenan flat but he opts to go to Ross Byrne out the back instead. There’s opportunity there but the ball goes to ground. In the ensuing scramble, Gibson-Park goes off his feet.


These first two visits are unusual from Leinster. Usually, they are patient and precise in the opposition 22. In these instances, they seem rushed.

Soon after, a nice cross-field kick from Ross Byrne bounces up and Dan Sheehan flicks it back inside before it can find touch, but Alexandre Roumat gets a hand to the ball.


It’s not a knock-on from Roumat and it bounces into touch, so the match officials rule that it’s not an illegal act.

Still, Leinster have a chance from close-range.

Their maul effort is collapsed by Toulouse for a penalty advantage but nothing comes of it as Jamie Osborne throws a loose pass and then Byrne knocks on in contact.


The penalty is 10 metres in from the left touchline and five metres out from the Toulouse tryline, so Leinster understandably go back into the corner.

But it goes down as another miss in the Toulouse 22.

First, the lineout is only scrappily won by McCarthy, meaning Leinster instantly lose ground, then Toulouse out-half Romain Ntamack forces a knock-on from lock Jason Jenkins as he carries.


Only 15 minutes in, Leinster have already had big frustration in the Toulouse 22.

A massive tackle by Doris on Ntamack as he chases a Byrne kick brings Leinster back in two minutes later and Toulouse tighthead Dorian Aldegheri infringes by making a breakdown poach when already off his feet.

It’s the first time the penalty is in ‘gimme’ territory for a kicker like Byrne and Leinster opt for the three points.


The next Leinster visit comes from a lineout play that sees Byrne hang a contestable kick over Antoine Dupont on second phase, with Ryan Baird batting the ball back on Leinster’s side.

But Aldegheri swiftly forces another turnover as he reaches out from the ruck when Gibson-Park lifts the ball, grabbing his arm to force a knock-on.


Aldegheri is clearly part of the ruck so he’s entitled to play Gibson-Park’s arm.

A big bust in midfield from Henshaw brings Leinster back into the 22 in the 24th minute and it looks like a promising passage until Ntamack strikes.

Leinster look to swing the ball to the left and Keenan passes short to Henshaw. Watch how Keenan is hit by Peato Mauvaka just after he passes, which proves important.


It means that Henshaw is suddenly isolated with Keenan on the ground. The next closest Leinster player is Lowe and he decides to shift out to the left for the next phase, but there isn’t to be one.

Having helped to tackle Henshaw, Ntamack bounces back to his feet and combines with Dupont to earn the breakdown turnover penalty.


Sheehan soon snaffles a Dupont inside pass near the Leinster 10-metre line then steps Ntamack to scorch away downfield for his team’s next visit.

He makes it to within a few metres of the Toulouse tryline but is caught by Kinghorn, with Dupont working back to jackal for the turnover.


It’s a close call as Osborne croc rolls Dupont to the side but referee Matthew Carley decides that the Toulouse captain had his hands on the ball first, entitling him to jackal.

Carley penalises Sheehan for holding on and it’s another chance gone.

A monstrous carry from Doris off a lineout with the clock in the red gives Leinster one last 22 entry in the first half. They earn a penalty advantage and Lowe briefly thinks he has scored in the left corner but the match officials adjudge this to have been a knock-on.


So Carley comes back to the penalty and from another clearly kickable position, Leinster take the three.


While the Irish province trail just 9-6 at the break, what we’ve seen above underlines that they had ample position and possession to have earned a lead in the first half.

Simply visiting the 22 is no guarantee of scoring points but Leinster at their best make their entries count to a far more clinical degree.

Just four minutes into the second half, the theme continues.

This time, it’s a poor lineout from Leinster as Roumat makes the steal.


The throw looks poor while Sheehan is clearly frustrated about the work in the lineout but whatever the exact issue, it’s damaging stuff from Leinster when applying pressure early in the second half was important.

They do nail their lineout on the next visit, this time in the left corner after winning a penalty on the left-hand five-metre line that is not obviously kickable.

Leinster go to their maul and make headway before Dupont pulls off a brilliant bit of defensive work to wrap up Sheehan and win the turnover.


A few minutes later, a sweeping passage of Leinster attack brings them back to within sight of the tryline.

But again, the turnover follows.


Lowe looks for the short pass to Sheehan but Toulouse centre Santiago Chocobares reads it and intercepts.

It’s 10 minutes before they return to the 22. A scrum penalty earns Leinster their next visit and when they win a penalty under the posts, Byrne duly sends over the three points.


Byrne is cramping at this stage and it’s his replacement, Ciarán Frawley, who brings about the next 22 visit.

His surge down the left gives them their entry but, once again, Leinster come away empty-handed.

It’s more phenomenal work from Dupont to earn the poach. He shows a remarkably quick release and reload onto the ball to beat Josh van der Flier despite the Leinster man’s proximity.


10 metres out from his own tryline with Toulouse leading 15-12 in the 73rd minute, it’s a huge steal.

It proves to be Leinster’s last 22 visit of the regular 80 minutes.

They have to wait until the 14th minute of the first half of extra time for their next chance and this time, they take it as a series of patient carries in the tight finish with van der Flier forcing his way over.


But it’s not to be the score that sparks an incredible late rally for Leinster.

Instead, Toulouse pull clear with further penalty shots from distance.

And in a moment that sums up Leinster’s inability to convert in the Toulouse 22, the game concludes with another such instance.


Thomas Ramos knocks on an intercept attempt and with the last advantage playing, Jack Conan is driven into touch by Kinghorn.

Regrets? Leinster will have a few.

18 possessions inside the Toulouse 22 yielded one converted try, two penalties successfully kicked at goal, two penalties kicked into touch, but 13 visits with no return.

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