Leinster beaten as Toulouse lift Champions Cup after extra time

PA Ready, Leinster, Thomas Ramos, Blair Kinghorn, French, Toulouse, London, Rugby, James Lowe, United, DuPont, Antoine Dupont, France, Josh van der Flier, Cian Healy, England

Thomas Ramos kicked Toulouse to victory (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)

Leinster were unable to shed their losing habit in Investec Champions Cup finals after they were edged 31-22 by Toulouse with only extra time separating the rivals at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The two most successful teams in the competition’s history went toe to toe in a thunderous collision that was scarred by too many errors to be a classic, but was captivating nonetheless.

Despite the perfect conditions neither side were able to score a try until Toulouse’s Matthis Lebel struck early in a period of extra time that created a series of momentum shifts all of its own.

The French champions were helped by James Lowe being shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on, but that advantage was quickly wiped out when lock Richie Arnold was sent off.

Thomas Ramos provided the decisive points, with three penalties taking them out of reach as Toulouse came on strong despite being a man down.

It was hard to endure for the hoards of Leinster fans in the 61,531 crowd, who have now seen their side lose to French opposition in three consecutive finals and whose last sight of silverware was the 2021 United Rugby Championship.

Toulouse were on the ropes for long spells, yet they made the stronger start by going close to touching down and then creeping ahead through two Blair Kinghorn penalties.

Ross Byrne’s penalty rewarded a promising spell for Leinster, who then attacked with precision off a scrum only for Toulouse to show their breakdown expertise for the second of Robbie Henshaw’s two breaks.

That skill also came to the red shirts’ rescue on the half-hour mark after Dan Sheehan had pick-pocketed the ball from Antoine Dupont during a pre-planned move and almost won the race for the line, but Kinghorn made a crucial tackle and Dupont then won the turnover.

Kinghorn and Byrne exchanged penalties to send Leinster into half-time 9-6 down despite their dominance of territory and possession, as well as every other attacking metric.

For all their entries into the opposition 22 they were often leaving empty-handed, making Byrne’s penalty soon after the interval a positive development.

Toulouse showed remarkable resilience as they defended their line in a one-sided third quarter, but the failure to capitalise on a dominant period also highlighted Leinster’s inability to build a score.

Kinghorn and Byrne traded kicks once more before three points from replacement Ramos nudged Toulouse in front. Lebel almost crossed in the left corner after the French side attacked with precision off turnover ball.

Leinster senior coach Jacques Nienaber was barking commands from the sideline having taken on the role of waterboy and he watched as Ciaran Frawley landed a penalty to take the match into extra time at 15-15.

Toulouse were the first to strike with a simple but effective try for Lebel that showcased the France wing’s lightning pace as they benefited from Lowe’s sin-binning. Ramos converted.

Arnold was sent off for a dangerous clearout of Cian Healy and the dismissal galvanised Leinster, who surged downfield for Josh van der Flier to cross from close range with Frawley adding the extras.

But Ramos was the next to score with a penalty and the France fly-half coolly proceeded to boot Toulouse out of reach as they scored more points in extra time, 16, than during the 80 minutes.

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