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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 21 March, 2019
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'Leinster are really phenomenal, they're a class team'

Toulouse are still in the hunt for a quarter-final spot, but their 12-game unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt in Dublin.

Ryan Bailey reports from the RDS

THE BALANCE OF power isn’t shifting back towards Toulouse just yet, and although the French side remain in a strong position to advance through to the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals, their European revival encountered a significant stumbling block here.

Leinster may have been missing as many as eight frontline Ireland internationals for this heavyweight clash, but Leo Cullen’s side completely overmatched Toulouse — in attack, defence and at the set-piece — to record an emphatic Pool 1 victory.

Jerome Kaino after the game There was disappointment for Jerome Kaino and Toulouse in Dublin. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

After negotiating the first four rounds of the pool stages unbeaten, including a round two win over Leinster, this afternoon’s visit to Dublin was always going to be the real litmus test for Toulouse. 

And while the visitors brought plenty of defiance in defence, they were simply unable to deal with Leinster’s unrelenting ball retention and belligerence up front as the hosts bullied them into submission, scoring four tries for a bonus-point win.

Furthermore, Toulouse were guilty of forcing the issue during a frenetic first half as Leinster’s impressive rearguard action nullified the threat of their lethal backline, until the final throes of the contest when Cheslin Kolbe streaked clear for a consolation try. 

The result sees Leinster leapfrog Toulouse into pole position in the pool heading into the final round of fixtures, with the province away at Wasps next weekend, while the French side host Bath at the Stade Ernest Wallon. 

“It was probably one of our most physical games of the season,” flanker Rynhardt Elstadt said post-match. “That was a really good test of character I think out there today.

In the first half, we had some good defence and I thought we did really well. But Leinster are a really phenomenal team. They have really good finishers, they know how to finish, they’re a class finishing team. I just think we lacked a bit of edge tonight.

When asked if he felt Leinster were the team to beat again this year, the South African added: “Definitely, yeah. They’re class like I said, they’re a class team. They’re right up there one of the teams to beat this year, they’re really, really good.”

Toulouse forwards coach, William Servat, agreed.

“Leinster are the first team in Europe,” the former France hooker said.

“Today, they show us with a lot of good players missing, they can exist and they can play very beautiful rugby. What I said to the French journalists is that Leinster teach us a lot today.

“They can get tries, they can walk to the line and in the same situation we pass for a long time and we don’t try. They keep the ball to the end. It’s a lot to learn from them.

“Today they are on top of the European competition and we can just progress and learn from them. Congratulations to them because today they win but it’s normal they win because today they are better than us.”

Cheslin Kolbe runs in to score a try Kolbe scored Toulouse's late try. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Toulouse were forced to get through swathes of defensive sets in the first half as Leinster set a ferocious early tone in front of a sold-out RDS, with Elstadt producing a big shift as he lead the tackle charts with 20. 

But Leinster’s control and physicality eventually wore the visitors down, as their line was breached just before the interval, and then three times after it as the eastern province produced a ruthless third quarter display. 

“You can feel the difference [playing against Leinster],” Elstadt continued. “The way the boys are performing, playing together as a pack. You can see that they just are a level above.

“If you want to test character and you want to meet yourself against any good team, I guess that’s the team to play against. I would say Ireland, for the Six Nations, they’re probably the team to beat too.

James Ryan, there is a big future for the boy. He’s playing really good rugby at this stage and if he keeps on going like that, he’s got a bright future.

Having suffered their first defeat in 13 games, and their first in Europe this season, Toulouse will need to dust themselves down ahead of next weekend’s visit of Bath, as they bid to book their place in the knockout stages.

“We can take a lot of positives out of this match,” Elstadt added. “We’ll prepare some hard yards this week to see if we can beat Bath back home.

“We’re not going to be very negative about this [loss], I can take the positives. We had a good journey up until now. I think we should just stay positive. Just take the next match and prepare well for the next match.”

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Ryan Bailey

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