Leinster's European riches spark a much-needed boom for Ireland

Leinster 32 Toulouse 23

There is hyperbole in talking of super-powers in European rugby, when the professional game and the Heineken Cup are barely out of nappies, but Leinster are on the brink of joining the ranks of the elite and serial winners Toulouse, Leicester, Munster and Wasps. In recessionary Dublin, where any taxi ride comes with a university-standard lecture on the economy, rugby is booming.

Leinster won the Heineken Cup in 2009, they were defeated by Toulouse in France in last year's semi-finals and now they are back for a second final – in Cardiff on 21 May – thanks to this pay-back win over the four-time European champions.

Home advantage played a huge part. Depending on how many paying punters they expect to squeeze in, Leinster have three stadia to choose from in and around the D4 postcode south of the Liffey: from dear old Donnybrook to the Royal Dublin Showground or – for this last-four set-to in front of 50,000 screaming spectators – the shiny, rebuilt Lansdowne Road (aka the Aviva Stadium, aka, the D4tress).

Munster may be on a temporary downer, but the Heineken Cup, born in 1995 with significant Celtic midwifery in the administrators Vernon Pugh and Tom Kiernan, has been the making of the Irish. The sporadic boon of the occasional tour match has been overtaken by the European odyssey and the opportunity to set Ireland at the head of Europe. The likes of Brian O'Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip – Leinster's try-scorers in this energetic, enervating match – need not be measured by Grand Slams or Lions tours alone. And their province can afford the wages to keep them happy.

The form line for the final points only to Leinster. What chance have Northampton got against a team who have knocked out the top three in France – Toulouse, Racing Metro and Clermont Auvergne – and England's top two, Saracens and Leicester?

You remember the way Leinster defended against Saracens at Wembley in the pool and ask how to unpick them. Toulouse's tries came from a lucky rebound to Florian Fritz in the fifth minute, and off the back of a scrum when the flanker Sean O'Brien was blocked by Yannick Nyanga from tackling the scorer, Louis Picamoles. There may be a citing for O'Brien for flinging a vengeful hand into the face of Nyanga. But you would bet a few Euros that any ban – if there is one – would be completed before the final.

Leinster have the all-court skills of Richardt Strauss, a South African hooker formerly of the Free State Cheetahs, matching what his much-praised compatriot Schalk Brits is doing for Saracens. And of course there is the peerless finisher O'Driscoll, who cut easily between Vincent Clerc and Census Johnston for his 30th Heineken Cup try (two behind Clerc as the all-time top scorer). Has the great centre ever botched a one-on-two chance, never mind a one-on-one?

Cup rugby dictates that upsets can happen but in Joe Schmidt, the New Zealander enjoying a fine first season as a head coach after assistant stints with Auckland Blues and Clermont, the "boys in blue" appear to have a master planner. "We spent two weeks looking at what we wanted to do against Toulouse," said Schmidt, who is being touted as the next Ireland coach. "There wasn't too much luck in that performance." Leinster rucked brilliantly and they had an improving scrum in which Cian Healy, when he was spent, was replaced ably by Heinke van der Merwe. They used high kicks for the big wing Shane Horgan to chase while Isa Nacewa from full-back occupied the Toulouse midfield with runs off O'Driscoll's inside shoulder. "There's a lot of belief in the team," said Leo Cullen, the Leinster captain whose side are on course for a Magners League semi-final too.

Toulouse will refocus on the chase for the Top 14 title – only once, in 1996, have they done the league-Europe double. As their bus revved up on Saturday evening a group of grim-faced players huddled around assistant coach Jean-Baptiste Elissalde (the former half-back whose direction the team could have done with, considering three scrum-halves were injured) to watch a re-run on a laptop. Guy Noves, the long-serving head coach, crouched and bent his knees in his designer jeans, demonstrating that, yes, the English referee was quite right to penalise Patricio Albacete for the crazy penalty Toulouse conceded just before half-time.

That gave Jonathan Sexton one of his eight successful kicks out of eight and sent Leinster in with a 16-13 lead. Picamoles' try four minutes into the second half had Toulouse briefly ahead but O'Driscoll's try on 58 minutes and Sexton's last-minute penalty was more than enough for Leinster.

Leinster: Tries Heaslip, O'Driscoll; Conversions Sexton (2); Penalties Sexton (6).

Toulouse: Tries Fritz, O'Driscoll; Conversions Skrela (2); Penalties Skrela, Bezy; Drop-goal Skrela.

Leinster: I Nacewa; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, L Fitzgerald (F McFadden, 56-67); J Sexton, E Reddan (I Boss, 53); C Healy (H van der Merwe, 53), R Strauss, M Ross (S Wright, 73), L Cullen (capt), N Hines, K McLaughlin (S Jennings, 53), S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Toulouse: C Heymans; V Clerc, F Fritz (Y Jauzion, 60), C Poitrenaud, M Médard; D Skrela (N Bezy, 67), J-M Doussain; J-B Poux (D Human, 45), W Servat (V Lacombe, 77), C Johnston (J Falefa, 67), Y Maestri (G Lamboley, 60), P Albacete, J Bouilhou (capt), Y Nyanga (T Dusautoir, 45), L Picamoles (S Sowerby, 64).

Referee: D Pearson (England).

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
peopleLynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance moves audience to tears
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

News
news

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London