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Leinster impress in show of force

Leinster 29 Toulouse 13

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Leinster’s Dave Kearney touches down for his side’s second try against Toulouse yesterday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy

Leinster’s Dave Kearney touches down for his side’s second try against Toulouse yesterday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy

SPORTSFILE

Leinster’s Dave Kearney touches down for his side’s second try against Toulouse yesterday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy

There are not many sides who can take the stage without an array of leading characters and then put on a show like that. It wasn't that there weren't any fluffed lines but from start to finish there was a resolve to get the job done. Everyone knew their places. Everyone gave value for money.

And a crowd of 18,493 left the RDS happy with their lot. The European Champions Cup holders are on course for a home draw in the quarter-final, a spot that will be decided by the outcome of their last-round game against Wasps in Coventry on Sunday.

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Leinster players Garry Ringrose, centre, and Ross Byrne, right, celebrate their side winning a penalty. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Leinster players Garry Ringrose, centre, and Ross Byrne, right, celebrate their side winning a penalty. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

What shape they will take for that game will be clearer over the next day or two, but for now their injury list has been extended by one: Luke McGrath. The scrum-half - very good as usual - was carted off on the hour mark with damage to his knee, the extent of which Leo Cullen wasn't going to speculate on so soon after the event. He hobbled out after the game in a knee brace. As for the others, including Rob Kearney, Robbie Henshaw, Devin Toner, Johnny Sexton and Dan Leavy?

"We'll see," Cullen said. "They're not a million miles away. There are five or six guys [missing] and two or three of them will come through. Who exactly, I'm not sure."

He sounded even less sure that Sexton might be in that group and Toner could be a while away yet. Either way, they should be able to cope. And if they bring the same defensive resolve then Wasps will struggle to score anything significant. Toulouse didn't find a chink of daylight until the 80th minute, which pleased the coach no end.

"Yeah, particularly the defensive set where they're on our try-line for six or seven minutes and they go to the corner a couple of times. That was very, very pleasing," said Cullen.

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Romain Ntamack of Toulouse is tackled by Rory O'Loughlin of Leinster during the Heineken Champions Cup Pool 1 Round 5 match between Leinster and Toulouse at the RDS Arena in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Romain Ntamack of Toulouse is tackled by Rory O'Loughlin of Leinster during the Heineken Champions Cup Pool 1 Round 5 match between Leinster and Toulouse at the RDS Arena in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

"The guys are fighting hard for each other which is good. We were reasonably composed in the first half in terms of our defensive set-up. You could see any time we turned the ball over how dangerous they are but I thought our players worked incredibly hard for each other and that's the most pleasing thing. You can see it means a lot to them and there was a great crowd out there today so I think they responded well to the support that they've had."

If it's a formality now for Leinster then it's not all bad for Toulouse. They wrap up the pool programme at home to Bath on Sunday and a win there should sort them for an away game in the quarters. If they get that far then they'll need to summon up an 80-minute shift because, in time-honoured tradition, they produced a game of two halves here: the first competitive; the second a good deal less than that.

In fairness, it wasn't easy for after the break they were into a stiff wind, and Leinster used it as an extra defender - knowing Toulouse would try and run from deep, the home defence set themselves high and hunted aggressively until the final whistle. The attraction of having big names missing is that the lesser lights use every possible moment to shine.

"Today they showed us why they are at the top of European competition in the last few years and we can learn from them," Toulouse coach William Servat said. "Our team learned a lot today but congratulations to them for their win. But it's normal for them to win."

Yes it is. They hardly envisaged winning by quite so much however. For 40 minutes this was a fast, physical and very competitive European tie at the end of which Leinster's lead was 10-6.Ross Byrne and Thomas Ramos kicked penalties before Jack Conan got over five minutes before the break, just after McGrath had had a referral upstairs knocked back. Ramos kicked another penalty on the stroke of half-time but even by then the looseness of Toulouse - between Ramos and Sofiane Guitoune they squandered a fair bit - was beginning to tell.

After the break Leinster never gave them a moment's peace and mostly kept their opponents hemmed in. A lovely cross kick from Ross Byrne made a try for Dave Kearney on 51 minutes and when Sean Cronin got over on 60 minutes Toulouse were done for. Adam Byrne scored with four minutes left before Cheslin Kolbe got over for Toulouse in the last minute.

Scorers - Leinster: J Conan, D Kearney, S Cronin, A Byrne try each; R Byrne pen, 2 cons, Reid con. Toulouse: Kolbe try, con; Ramos 2 pens.

Leinster: J Larmour; A Byrne, G Ringrose, R O'Loughlin (C O'Brien 77), D Kearney; R Byrne (N Reid 73), L McGrath (J Gibson-Park 60); C Healy (E Byrne 61), S Cronin (J Tracey 61), T Furlong (A Porter 61), S Fardy (R Molony 78) J Ryan, R Ruddock (capt), J Conan (M Deegan), J van der Flier.

Toulouse: M Medard; C Kolbe, S Guitoune, R Ntamack (S Bezy 56), Y Huget; T Ramos (Z Holmes 49), A Dupont; C Castets (C Bailie 52), J Marchand (capt) (P Mauvaaka 52), C Faumina, R Arnold, J Tekori (P Faasalele 58), F Cros (L Maaudele 71), J Kaino (A Placines 58), R Elstadt, C Faumina (D Aldegehri HI 33)

Referee: L Pearce (England)

Leinster29

Toulouse13

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