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Rugby Union – Final: Leinster 22-31 Toulouse (aet)

Toulouse

There are plenty of decent teams out there but, at club level, the force is unquestionably with Toulouse. By winning a dramatic sixth Champions Cup title they have propelled themselves another giant step beyond their biggest European rivals and remain a formidable side in anybody’s language.

Club rugby occasions do not come bigger or more tense and nothing was remotely guaranteed with the scores tied at 15-15 at the end of normal time and the atmosphere increasingly gladiatorial. Cometh the hour, cometh les hommes. Three minutes into the first period of extra time, with James Lowe in the sin-bin, the French giants stretched Leinster’s depleted defence wide on the left and Matthis Lebel scorched over for the game-breaking try.

Despite having the lock Richie Arnold sent off for a dangerous clear-out on Cian Healy, a 14-man Toulouse subsequently kicked on, the accurate right boot of Thomas Ramos providing four vital penalties to secure a fourth successive French victory in four years. This was the third Champions Cup final to go to extra time and Toulouse, remarkably, have won all of them.

It was a brutal way for Leinster to lose a third consecutive final, particularly given how hard they had battled throughout the regular 80 minutes. Ultimately, though, they did not have tactical architects of the calibre of Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack and their Jacques Nienaber-inspired defensive excellence was not quite matched by their attacking ‘red zone’ ruthlessness.

Source – Third time unlucky for Leinster as Toulouse win European Champions Cup | Champions Cup | The Guardian