This competition is not over yet. These two giants may have to do it all again before the champions are crowned. Toulouse are not out despite losing today.
After a tense, fraught battle in the RDS we have edged a little bit closer to unravelling this year’s competition. The two most illustrious winners of the competition have met in another bruising encounter.
Leinster 29 - 13 Toulouse
Leinster scored first with a penalty but we waited a long time for the first try. Leinster’s spent a long period in the Toulouse twenty-two but it ended with a defensive penalty, mirroring the second half, when Toulouse threatened the Leinster line for a tense ten minutes, ending with a Leinster penalty.
Leinster played against a strong, gusty breeze in the first half, playing the possession game. Kicking was reserved for clearances from the twenty-two are.
Toulouse barely touched the ball in the first half but they committed too many handling mistakes to make use of the opportunities. They looked dangerous and threatening whenever they got the ball, but a mere six points from two penalties was all they could get from the first half.
Leinster scored four tries today, winning with the bonus point and denying Toulouse the losing one. They allowed Kolbe in for a consolation in the dying moments of the game.
Conan, Cronin and Adam Byrne scored some nice tries, but the pick of the night was Dave Kearney’s early in the second half, collecting a perfectly executed cross-field kick from Ross Byrne.
Leinster move to the top of pool 1, three points clear of Toulouse. A home quarter final is a distinct possibility, with a win away in Coventry against Wasps sure to get us close.
We will know exactly what we need to do to get it, being the final pair of games of the weekend; Toulouse host Bath at the same time. They are not out of the running.
It may require a bonus point win, but they will also know exactly what is necessary to secure qualification.
There is always the chance of meeting them again at quarter final stage, but for that to happen we will need to be in the top three places, playing one of the runner-up teams.
I feel that the winner of this year’s competition, if not either of today’s protagonists, is going to have to beat one or both of these two European rugby giants. We may well end up seeing Toulouse in a final.
Wouldn’t that be a match to be at, the first team to reach five.
Let’s get through next week. We have not qualified yet. A home quarter final in April is what we get if we win (neither Munster nor Montpelier can pass us if we win). A draw or loss hands the group back to Toulouse.
We thought that the great aristocrats of European rugby, Toulouse, had gone away. They have come roaring back this year, and look like a contender.
Did Toulouse suddenly wake up this year after realising that Leinster had caught up and equalled their feat of four titles? They even did it while winning their own domestic competition.
Fate decided to pit them against one another in the same pool, the pool of death, with other past champions, Wasps with two titles, and Bath with one.
From the start it looked like the teams would steal points from one another, with the likely outcome that only one team would emerge from the group, with tight competition coming from the other pools for those coveted three runner-up spots
It now looks probable that both will continue on to the next stage. Bring on next weekend, but look out. Leinster and Toulouse have unfinished business this year.