Saturday 25 May 2019

Boys in Blue keep their cool in blazing a trail to history

‘Amazing’: Scott Fardy scores a try, and later embraces his wife and son after the game. Photo: PA
‘Amazing’: Scott Fardy scores a try, and later embraces his wife and son after the game. Photo: PA
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

Lansdowne Road was a sea of blue with the familiar roars of "Leinster" echoing through the air as around 30,000 home supporters basked in the spring sunshine.

Balmy heat and blue skies created a holiday atmosphere at the Aviva, and Jonny Sexton, James Lowe and co provided the formula to kick the party off.

There were only a few thousand Toulouse fans inside the Aviva Stadium, so while they tried to out-chant the Irish, they didn't stand a chance.

Toulouse players paid tribute to the Notre-Dame Cathedral with logos on their shirts to remember the iconic 850-year-old church damaged last week in a fire. But it was Leinster who found the passion.

Blue flags waved and fathers held children aloft on their shoulders as the team raced 15-3 ahead after 26 minutes.

For Leinster fans there really was only one place to be. This was world-class rugby and they knew they weren't going to be disappointed.

French spirits remained high at half-time, despite the 17-6 dominance by Leinster.

But 52 minutes in Scott Fardy scored a try that catapulted Leinster to 22-9 and left French hopes fading as the afternoon sun dipped to leave most of the stadium in the shade.

With a score of 30-12 at full time, the almighty cheer from Leinster fans offered a tremendous end to this stunning semi-final match.

Fans poured out of their seats wearing smiles, applauding their team while the Leinster and Toulouse players embraced each other, despite their bruising encounter.

Husband and wife Mark and Carolyn McArdle, from Dublin city, said: "It was a great performance from Leinster. Our two imports, Fardy and Lowe, were amazing.

"We're off to Newcastle next to hopefully see Leinster enter the history books with the fifth time to win the title."

Nigel Fanning attended the match with his sister Laura Condren, but his partner Briyony, whose family hail from Toulouse, had stayed at home in Rathfarnham for the clash.

"James Lowe should've been man of the match," said Laura, "but Johnny [Sexton] is clearly back on form."

Friends Emma Donnelly and Tom Wilkinson, from Dún Laoghaire, enjoyed the game and the brilliant weather. "It was an electric atmosphere despite there being some empty seats," Emma said.

At the end, the small Toulouse contingent raised their red flags and chanted just one more time to lift their fallen heroes.

But Easter Sunday belonged to Leinster, who will now turn to chase a place in history with a fifth European title.

Irish Independent

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