Toulouse's exciting young guns show the way as Leinster come up short

‘It was beautiful, sometimes we’re beautiful!’

Murray Kinsella reports from Toulouse

THE NATURE OF the game was truly befitting of two clubs who have eight European stars between them.

And there was no better way for Toulouse to announce their potential to return to the top table than against their fellow four-time Heineken Champions Cup winners, who also happen to be defending champions and favourites for the title again this season.

Toulouse rolled back the years in a thrilling performance in front of their passionate support at Stade Ernest Wallon to beat Leinster 28-27 yesterday.

Maxime Médard celebrates at the final whistle Maxime Médard celebrates Toulouse's shock win. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

31-year-old Maxime Médard – who was on the left wing the last time Toulouse won this competition in 2010 – scored two tries but this game was about the statement made by the new crop of Toulousain players.

21-year-old number eight Selevasio Tolofua was superb, dancing around Sean O’Brien to set up a try, while 23-year-old fullback Thomas Ramos was assured in kicking 13 points off the tee and sparking some exciting attacking chances.

19-year-old inside centre Romain Ntamack – the son of Toulouse great Émile – only lasted 23 minutes before injury forced him off but he is a prodigious talent.

There was even a promising appearance off the bench for 18-year-old loosehead prop David Ainu’u, a native of American Samoa who has played for the USA U20s and who only joined the club last December.

“We’re very proud,” said Toulouse coach Régis Sonnes – who was director of rugby at Bandon RFC and Bandon Grammar as recently as last season – after the win against Leinster.

“We’re very proud for the team and the players because we have a very young team with big potential and today, with injuries and suspensions, we had a lot of players out.

“The young players showed the way, they took the opportunity and enjoyed the game I think. We won on confidence for the future, we know now we have big potential for the team.”

Toulouse players applaud Jonathan Sexton off the field Toulouse clap Leinster off the pitch. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Far from being daunted by facing a team of Leinster’s stature, Toulouse seemed to relish the opportunity to cause an upset in front of their raucous crowd.

“The mentality was positive because beating Leinster could be a historic exploit for us,” said Sonnes, who welcomed a big band of supporters from Bandon for this game.

“We have all the committee of Bandon here today. Conor [Slattery, Bandon's director of rugby] is here. I received some messages from Bandon today. Munster are happy, Leinster lost!

“We tried to beat the best team in Europe playing our game to the maximum level and to enjoy the moment with the supporters.”

“It is incredible, some lads were winning their first European Cup cap, six or seven of them, it’s incredible.

“It’s great for confidence. We worked very hard all the weeks and I think and hope they can understand the potential, to have more maturity and confidence for the future to be a strong team.

“We are far away from Leinster’s level, we need more consistency, but we have big potential. We are happy.”

For Leinster, there will be regrets.

Moving into the lead at 27-21 with 53 minutes played appeared to signal the champions shifting into real control, but Toulouse sealed their win in unforgettable fashion with Médard’s second try.

Joe Tomane dejected after Toulouse won a late penalty to end the game Joe Tomane shows his dejection. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“I think we will have to look at some of the inaccuracies like holding on to the ball and stuff like that, whether it’s set-piece at times, I kicked a ball stupidly at one stage and they came alive, some breakdowns, knock-ons,” said Leinster’s Rhys Ruddock.

“They just come alive when they get turnover ball in broken field and had we not given them those opportunities, it might have been a different result.”

Leo Cullen and his coaches will also take some positives out of the performances as they move forward, but last night it was raw.

“I think we just have to suffer together now on the way home, a rough, long journey home, just the disappointment lingering,” said Ruddock

The final score will live long in the memory, with replacement flanker Louis-Benoit Madaule picking off Luke McGrath’s pass near the Toulouse 22 and bursting towards the Leinster half.

He passed to Yoann Huget who threw a lovely offload to Sébastien Bézy, who delivered the ball – slightly forward, perhaps – onto try-scorer Médard for a classic try.

“Like Toulouse can do,” said Sonnes with a smile. “We want to play like that, we coach the players to play like that because it is our identity.

Sonnes Toulouse coach Régis Sonnes.

“We love it, we really love it and it’s effective mostly. It was beautiful, sometimes we’re beautiful!”

Leinster boss Cullen had to take his hat off to the victors.

“You could see how much it meant to them after the game,” said Cullen. “From the first minute to the last they were flying into everything.

“They were fully committed to the contact area. Having said that, we weathered the initial storm and got ourselves into the game. We just couldn’t quite ram home our advantage. 

“We probably got a little bit carried away with ourselves [at 27-21]. Maybe we didn’t put enough of a squeeze on them and we didn’t fully respect possession when we had it.

“It’s a tough one to take for our guys, they put a lot into the week. We got one point and we’re sitting second now in the pool, so it was a little bit of a lost opportunity, but on we go.”

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