Heartbreak for Leinster
The prospect of an all-Irish Heineken Cup final ended in Toulouse yesterday when Leinster lost to a home side who opened up, as they had done in the quarter-final against Stade Francais, in the last quarter.
Although Leinster responded with a brilliantly conceived try for Jamie Heaslip, they were struggling on too many fronts to sustain the effort and the French side ran out deserving 26-16 winners. They will play the winners of today's tie in San Sebastian between Biarritz and Munster.
The reigning champions played below par in what was coach Michael Cheika's last European game in charge.
"It wasn't from lack of heart or lack of ticker but the best team won on the day so we have no complaints," said Heaslip. "They contested very well all over the pitch and they took there scores well and we can't have any complaints."
Leinster are still in pursuit of the Magners League title, however, and are at home to Edinburgh next weekend looking to secure a home semi-final. It is unclear yet if Jonny Sexton, who they missed yesterday, will be fit for that.
Munster go into today's game short of four first-choice players as they try to make their third final in five years. Doug Howlett and Ian Dowling were withdrawn on Friday, Paul O'Connell hasn't played since Ireland's final game of the Six Nations, and Denis Leamy is a long-term absentee.
Heineken Cup special, Pages 2-6