Toulouse out-half Romain Ntamack. Alamy Stock Photo

A case for the defence: How teams score tries against Toulouse and Leinster

The French side have conceded seven tries across their three Champions Cup knock-out games, while Leinster have leaked five.

ACROSS THIS SEASON’S Champions Cup Toulouse have scored 45 tries and conceded 17 in seven games.

In their three knock-out games, the French side leaked seven tries.

Leinster, on the other hand, have conceded 11 tries on their route to the final – with five coming across their three knock-out games.

The province have limited their opposition to just one try on three occasions [v Stade France, Leicester Tigers and La Rochelle (quarter-final)] and didn’t concede a single try in their pool opener away to La Rochelle back in December.

Like Leinster, Toulouse tend to score a lot of tries – notching up 20 across their three knock-out fixtures.

Harlequins were on the receiving end of six of those in their semi-final loss but still managed to cross four times away from home – no team has scored more tries in one game against Toulouse in this season’s tournament and they supplied Leinster with some interesting clips to pore over.

The first came on 13 minutes when Toulouse were 5-0 ahead after Matthis Lebel’s early try.

The score comes from Toulouse conceding a penalty in the Harlequins half which allows the English side move from their 40-metre line to the edge of the Toulouse 22.

Good lineout work then sees Chandler Cunningham-South win the ball at the back before Harlequins switch the direction and attack down the blindside to move into the 22 – and threaten to strike down the right.

Try 1 - lineout

What follows is a series of patient, accurate carries through Harlequins’ phase-play, with Tyrone Green and Cunningham-South both making good ground as Harlequins inch towards the tryline. Playing with penalty advantage, Alex Dombrandt goes close before Harlequins recycle the ball and Marcus Smith steps by three defenders to score.

Harlequins Try 1

It’s a smart show-and-go finish by Smith but Toulouse will have been disappointed with their defensive effort here – with Romain Ntamack in particular beaten far too easily.

Harlequins Try 1 close

Harlequins scored their second try on 23 minutes, six minutes after Toulouse had scored their own second to extend their lead.

Again, a lineout proves the launchpad following a period of kicking.

Ntamack calls a mark and his kick leaves Harlequins with a lineout on the 40m line. They win the ball in the air again but this time move the ball the width of the pitch before Louis Lynagh kicks in behind. Harlequins are never overly stressed here, with Toulouse happy to sit off so high up the pitch.

Harlequins Try 2

Initially there’s some confusion –  Toulouse feel the lineout should be theirs but Harlequins get the throw, with Lynagh’s kick deemed a 50:22. It’s a highly unpopular decision with the home support.

Harlequins then rub salt in the wound with another excellent setpiece, claiming the ball in the air before a powerful maul bulldozes over, with flanker Will Evans the try-scorer.

Harlequins Try 2 lineout

It’s a textbook lineout maul from Harlequins and Toulouse struggle to provide any real resistance as they get turned.

Try 2 maul

Harlequins don’t score again until the 45th minute, by which point Toulouse have built a 31-12 lead.

As with tries one and two, the visitors’ third try starts with a lineout. The early stages of the second half saw Harlequins play most of the rugby in Toulouse territory, and a series of penalties allowed them slowly work their way into the 22, before more accurate phase-play edges them towards the tryline. A penalty offers a lineout on the 5m line and from there Harlequins strike.

Toulouse don’t compete in the air again and while their maul holds strong this time, Harlequins get a penalty and make the most of their free shot.

Harlequins Try 3 maul

Playing with advantage, there’s a bit of fortune involved as they spread the play before Caden Murley supplies the acrobatic finish in the corner.

First, Andre Esterhuizen sees an attempted kick-through bounce back into his own hands.

Harlequins Try 3 kick

Next, Dombrandt reacts well to dodge a pass aimed at Smith, who then stretches the defence by firing a wonderful pass wide to Murley, with Toulouse fullback Blair Kinghorn caught in no man’s land – initially biting in before having to scramble wide to Murley, who finishes in style.

Harlequins Try 3 pass

It’s a superb finish by Murley as Toulouse get sucked across and leave too much space out wide.


Quins’ fourth try was sparked by another piece of clever individual play – Smith managing to keep this Antoine Dupont kick in-play. His pass inside then allow his team launch an attack as Green sprints forward.

Harlequins Try 4 pre

With Toulouse heavily loaded down their left side, Green breaks down the middle with support runners to his right – luring in two defenders before offloading to Murley, who carries into the 22.

Try 4 overview

The winger has space to attack either side and is slightly hesitant before stepping a defender and being brought to ground.

Harlequins Try 4 break

With Toulouse still scrambling Harlequins manage to keep the tempo up, getting quick support in before Green – who has made a big effort to quickly rejoin the play – slips through another soft tackle to score.

Harlequins Try 4 finish

It all came from Quins playing fast and ensuring Toulouse didn’t have time to settle back into their defensive shape.

Leinster may have found less to enjoy in Toulouse’s utterly dominant quarter-final win over Exeter, where Ugo Mola’s men scored nine tries while conceding just two.

Exeter’s first came through Ethan Roots in the 16th minute and put Exeter 11-7 up away from home.

Exeter win a penalty after a period of sustained pressure in the 22, and then execute really nicely from the tap-and-go to score – Roots bursting through a gap from a clever inside pass. 


Exeter’s timing and execution is perfect, the initial decoy pass skipping Jack Yeandle and hitting Christ Tshiunza, who slips the ball back inside to Roots. Leinster can also be creative with their tap-and-goes so this will be a space to watch on Saturday.

Exeter Try 1 close

The game then got away from Exeter, who added a second try just after the hour mark. Again, the score came from a setpiece and again, Toulouse looked vulnerable from a lineout.

Toulouse don’t send up a jumper and Exeter win the ball before swinging it infield, where they again use decoy runners to good effect before Zach Wimbush scores.

Try 2

This time Immanuel Feyi-Waboso runs the dummy support line as Toulouse scramble across. Henry Slade instead passes to Wimbush on his left, who finishes a lethal setpiece move.

Exeter Try 2 close

In the round of 16, Toulouse enjoyed a comfortable home win over fellow French side Racing 92, with Mola’s side keeping their visitors scoreless until the 74th minute, by which point they were 24-0 up.

When Racing did eventually get on the scoreboard, the opportunity started with Toulouse conceding a penalty that allowed Racing kick to the corner.

As with the above examples, Toulouse don’t get in the air to compete. It’s not the cleanest lineout from Racing but Baptiste Chouzenoux is able to claim the ball before Racing set their maul driving forward.

Racing Try lineout

From here Toulouse get marched back and after Francois Cros (7), Alexandre Roumat (8) and Joshua Brennan (20) break off, Racing pile over the line. While it’s little more than a consolation score for Racing, Toulouse will have been unhappy with how easily they allow the maul to drive through – particularly as most of the Toulouse pack had been on the pitch for less than 20 minutes.

Racing Try maul

Leinster have also paid the price for unforced errors and while the province have made a habit of starting strong, they were slow out of the traps in their round of 16 game against Leicester Tigers, conceding after just four minutes.

The Tigers managed to build some early pressure at Aviva Stadium, and launch a clinical counter when James Lowe’s long clearance from a messy Leinster lineout doesn’t find touch.

Tigers Try 1 kick

Freddie Stewart attacks and while Leinster get up to make the tackle, the Tigers win a penalty for offside and continue to play with pace – with a lovely offload from James Cronin sending Jasper Wiese through a gap.

Tigers Try 1 offload

The English side keep building pressure in the left corner before Handre Pollard runs a smart line to collect another offload and score. Pollard of course knows Jacques Nienaber’s defensive system better than most from their time together with the Springboks.

Tigers try 1 score

It’s a quality try from Leicester, with the space for Pollard opening up as Leinster shoot up on the ball-carrier.

Tigers try 1 replay

Leicester’s maul caused Leinster problems on the night and the dam broke after Lowe was yellow-carded for a knock-on early in the second half.

From the lineout, Leicester set a strong maul moving and while the ball is initially held up, Cronin manages to dot the ball down at the base.


Leicester added a third try as the game entered the final five minutes, and it was one the more careless scores Leinster have conceded all season.

With the result long beyond doubt, Leinster make a total mess of a lineout in their own 22 and Charlie Clare is gifted a try after staying alert at the back of the lineout.

Tigers try 3

The quarter-final win over La Rochelle felt like a statement defensive performance from Leinster, as La Rochelle only managed to score one try at Aviva Stadium.

With Leinster leading 23-6 after an excellent start, La Rochelle finally got some joy when presented with a chance to maul with the clock in the red at the end of the first half.

La Rochelle were far from their best on the day but produced a devasting lineout maul which at the time, felt ominous. 

Tolu Latu throws to Gregory Alldritt, who wins the ball over Jason Jenkins at the back, and La Rochelle surge forward, Leinster never looking comfortable as Louis Penverne cuts through to score. 


That was as good as it got for La Rochelle as Leinster dominated the second half on their way to a highly impressive victory, with their defensive effort on the day outstanding.

The semi-final win against Northampton Saints left a bit more to be desired, Leinster building a good lead before the Saints rallied back to set up a tense finish.

The English side scored their first try after 58 minutes, when Leinster were 20-3 up.

Saints had been building some pressure before a botched Leinster lineout allowed them swoop in to turn over the ball.

Saints try 1

Leinster have tacklers shooting up but Northampton deal with that intense defensive approach calmly.

Finn Smith gets his pass off as Jamie Osborne bites in and Fraser Dingwell follows up by stepping around Robbie Henshaw’s diving tackle attempt. Leinster are now racing to get across and Alex Moon executes an excellent looped pass out to fullback George Hendy, who kicks behind the onrushing Lowe.


What happens next is another mess, as Andrew Porter and Jordan Larmour fail to deal with the bouncing ball, with Hendy on hand to score.

Saints try 1 score

Northampton continued to attack down that left side looking to exploit the space in the Leinster backfield, with Jamison Gibson-Park called on to make an important try-saving intervention.

With the pressure building Tom Seabrook eventually added a second try in the 74th minute.

Northampton hammer at the Leinster line from a penalty but initially get little success as the province hold them out.


The ball briefly spills loose before Elliot Millar-Mills goes close, and when he’s stopped short Saints react fast to change the point of attack.

Smith finds Seabrook on the touchline and the winger has space to race over – Jimmy O’Brien leaving space in behind as he comes up to cover the runners on Smith’s left shoulder.

Saints try 2 score

While highly effective, there are risks involved in Nienaber’s defensive system, and Toulouse will hope they can move the ball with enough speed to unlock the spaces that can be created in Leinster’s defensive line.

Both Leinster and Toulouse are capable of moments of brilliance in attack, but they can both be vulnerable when on the other side of the ball – another reason why Saturday’s final has the potential to be an all-time classic.

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