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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 21 February, 2019

Toulouse's stunning winning try against Leinster started with clever homework

Louis-Benoît Madaule turned a Leinster trait against them.

THERE ARE A few disadvantages to being the defending champions.

Among them is the fact that virtually every opposition team you face has the opportunity to claim a season-boosting scalp and is, therefore, likely to be highly motivated.

We saw as much on Sunday as Toulouse hammered into every tackle against Leinster in their entertaining Heineken Champions Cup victory, playing like a team with nothing to lose against the heavily-fancied champions.

Maxime Médard celebrates Maxime Médard finished Toulouse's stunning winning try. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

And there’s also the fact that opposition teams are likely to study your play more closely than ever. 

Most analysts and coaches are revelling in poring over footage of Leinster playing, keen to learn from the best, but also intent on figuring out ways to stop Leo Cullen’s side.

Again, Toulouse delivered on that front on Sunday and that was particularly highlighted in their stunning winning try in the 69th minute.

Louis-Benoît Madaule, the 30-year-old flanker signed from Bordeaux two summers ago, may not be a household name but his interception to kick-start a classic Toulouse try underlined the value of having your homework done.

One of Leinster’s habits in attack this season has been to hit-up in midfield from lineout platforms and then bounce back against the grain in the hope of cutting through exposed and disorganised forwards.

We’ve written about this tendency on The42 and while it’s certainly not something exclusive to Leinster, they have done it very often this season.

Sean Cronin scored a lovely try against Dragons in this manner, Leinster very nearly cut through Wasps with something similar, Jack Conan burst through early on against Connacht after a bounce-back attack but his offload to Luke McGrath went to ground.

There have been several other examples early on this season and, clearly, Toulouse had been keeping track. While French teams are not exactly renowned for the depth of their analysis, the try finished by Maxime Médard underlined that they had done their homework.

Leinster play off a right-hand-side lineout and carry through outside centre Garry Ringrose.


Click here if you cannot view the clip above

Even without Toulouse competing at the breakdown, Robbie Henshaw, Sean O’Brien and Devin Toner arrive to secure the ball on the ground – as is their role in this pre-planned move.

As indicated in white below, James Ryan and Andrew Porter come around the corner as if to carry on the second phase, looking to lure Toulouse defenders into folding across to that side of the ruck.


The space to the right of the breakdown is clear in this instant, just before Toulouse have moved to close it up.

As part of Leinster’s planned move from the lineout, we can see below that James Tracy [red], Jack McGrath [white] and Jack Conan [blue] are bursting forward into that space to the right of where Ringrose has been tackled.


Tracy is closest to Luke McGrath and running a line to take him on a switch to the Leinster scrum-half’s inside as McGrath bounces away from the base of the breakdown.

McGrath and Conan are running hard to McGrath’s outside, with Conan the primary option as he gets flat, up ahead of McGrath.

But while this is happening, Madaule has already made his move.

Even as McGrath is moving to scoop the ball off the ground, the Toulouse back row’s analysis work has kicked in and he understands the opportunity.


Madaule definitely flirts with the offside line here – “the hindmost point of any player in the tackle or on their feet over the ball” – but the match officials are happy he has nailed his timing and the former France U20 international accelerates forward.


Click here if you cannot view the clip above

Madaule floods up into the space between McGrath and Conan, backing his homework to take him into a place where he can hurt Leinster.

In hindsight, McGrath might reflect that he could have picked up Madaule’s run earlier and held onto the ball or dropped it off to Tracy, but he proceeds with the pre-planned move and pays the price.

In intercepting the ball, Madaule has made a Leinster trait count against them and then allowed Toulouse to spark into life and show the traits that make them such an attacking threat.


Click here if you cannot view the clip above

While Johnny Sexton shows typically good reactions to turn and retreat in the same second as Madaule intercepts, allowing him to tackle the flanker, the Toulouse mentality on turnover possession is clear.

The French side come alive at the opportunity, their mentality instantly switching into ‘we’re going to score here.’

Madaule dummies a pass, ensuring Sexton can only get a scrag tackle around his waist and allowing Madaule to offload to Yoann Huget, who throws a beautiful one-handed offload out of Robbie Henshaw’s tackle to Alban Placines.

Former Biarritz man Placines shows good composure to pass swiftly to his left, where scrum-half Sébastien Bézy has worked hard to get to.

And Bézy seals the deal by firing the ball on to Médard on his left as McGrath dives in a despairing bid to prevent his opposite number from passing. 

Médard puts the finishing touch to the kind of score that they adore around Stade Ernest Wallon, kisses the ball, and celebrates a try that is about offloading, support play and turnover intent, but also about the importance of analysing the opposition.

Thomas Ramos, to his credit, then fired over the touchline conversion that proved to be the beating of the champions.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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