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Leinster seek back-to-back finals

Thursday 27th April 2023

1:00 pm (GMT)

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Leinster seek back-to-back finals

Jamison Gibson-Park dives over for Leinster’s second try against Ulster Rugby in the Round of 16

Leinster Rugby are bidding for a second successive Heineken Champions Cup final when they welcome five-time champions Stade Toulousain to Dublin in the semi-finals on Saturday.

The Irish province were beaten by another TOP 14 outfit, Stade Rochelais, in last season’s showpiece game but had overcome Toulouse in stunning fashion in the last four.

Four-time champions Leinster are once again seeking to equal Toulouse’s record of five EPCR crowns, though the star-studded visitors will provide their toughest examination of this campaign.

Both teams boast 100%-win records in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup, with Leinster having been unbeaten in all competitions until a much-changed side lost at Vodacom Bulls in the BKT United Rugby Championship (URC) last week.

The two EPCR heavyweights enjoyed commanding wins in the quarter-finals as Leinster thrashed Leicester Tigers 55-24 and Toulouse crushed Cell C Sharks 54-20.

The game at the Aviva Stadium kicks off at 15:00 (UK & Irish time) and is available to watch on RTE, BT Sport, beIN SPORTS, France TV, ITV, SuperSport and FloRugby.

Key quotes

Leinster Rugby No.8 Jack Conan: “We have to be at our utmost best and that’s what we’re building for. The lads are really excited for the challenge. Hopefully we get a decent day for it, and we can be at our best. I think we’re in the best place we’ve ever been to go and do it.”

Stade Toulousain lock Richie Arnold: “I think we learned a lot from last year’s defeat, just watching them, how they play. The big ones for beating them is winning the collisions, a solid set piece and just defence. You have to be connected in defence.”

Key facts

Leinster Rugby

Andrew Porter conceded the most penalties by a player in the quarter-finals, a total of four.

Josh van der Flier is the leading try-scorer in the competition with five.

Jimmy O’Brien made as many clean breaks as any other player in the quarter-finals (5). His total for the season is a competition-leading 11.

Leinster have conceded an average of 9.8 penalties per game this season, the second-best disciplinary record of the 24 starting clubs.

Stade Toulousain

Thomas Ramos scored 29 points in the quarter-final against Cell C Sharks – more than any other player and the most points scored by a player in a single match this season. He also made the most kicking metres in the round (449).

Antoine Dupont made five try assists against Cell C Sharks, the most in a single Heineken Champions Cup match. He also made a joint round-high five clean breaks with Leinster’s Jimmy O’Brien.

Dupont has also made more support carries (7) and support carry metres (63) than any other player.

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Superb Leinster blitz Toulouse to reach Heineken Champions Cup final

Saturday 29th April 2023

5:08 pm (GMT)

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Superb Leinster blitz Toulouse to reach Heineken Champions Cup final

The Aviva Stadium was treated to an imperious Leinster display

Leinster Rugby booked their place in the Heineken Champions Cup final with a sensational 41-22 thrashing of Stade Toulousain at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

The Irish province replicated their 2022 drubbing of the TOP 14 heavyweights in the last four as they racked up five tries in front of a deafening home crowd.

Jack Conan (2), Dan Sheehan, Josh van der Flier and Jason Jenkins all crossed for the hosts in addition to 16 points kicked by the impeccable Ross Byrne.

Toulouse were ruthlessly punished amid yellow cards in either half for Thomas Ramos and Rodrigue Neti, with Pita Ahki, Emmanuel Meafou and Jack Willis notching what proved to be the five-time champions’ consolation scores.

As expected, the game started with a blistering intensity in front of a raucous Dublin crowd and fly-half Byrne had Leinster in front on four minutes as he slotted his first points from a central position.

Toulouse enjoyed plenty of the ball early on and made their pressure count on eight minutes, shifting the ball wide before centre Ahki straightened to finish, full-back Thomas Ramos converting.

A high tackle allowed Byrne to bring Leinster within a point on 13 minutes, and the momentum would swing in the Irish province’s favour further with a quarter of an hour gone – Ramos denied a pass to wing Jimmy O’Brien with a deliberate knock-on and was shown a yellow card.

Leinster were ruthless during the period with an extra man as No.8 Conan immediately powered over for his first before adding another five minutes later as he stylishly combined with flanker Josh van der Flier.

O’Brien thought he had Leinster’s third when he dived over in the corner, but a lengthy TMO review revealed that Toulouse counterpart Juan Cruz Mallía had done enough to prevent him from grounding.

Ramos returned moments later but Leinster would notch a third score regardless as hooker Sheehan profited from a loose Toulouse pass and finished from 22 metres out.

Byrne’s flawless kicking ensured Leinster were 27-7 up heading into the final 10 minutes of the first half, but Toulouse would hand themselves a lifeline thanks to lock Meafou’s powerful finish, Ramos’ conversion reducing the gap to 13 points.

The first points of the second half wouldn’t come until 56 minutes when Ramos slotted a penalty to further eat into Leinster’s lead.

But almost immediately after the restart, Toulouse would be down to 14 men again as replacement prop Neti was shown yellow for leading with his head against van der Flier.

And the Leinster man would be over for his side’s fourth try seconds later on his 50th Heineken Champions Cup appearance as he squeezed over at the back of a trundling lineout maul.

Leinster turned the screw once again with their numerical advantage as replacement lock Jenkins fired through a gap on 63 minutes for his maiden Heineken Champions Cup try.

The remainder of the game fizzled out as Leinster managed proceedings expertly and Toulouse failed to find any rhythm amid persistent handling errors and inaccuracy.

Flanker Willis ensured Toulouse bowed out of the competition with a try when he drove over in the final play, but it was Leinster’s day as they marched into the showpiece game.

The Heineken Champions Cup final takes place at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on May 20. Click HERE for more detail on EPCR’s 2023 Dublin finals.

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