O'Driscoll and Heaslip take Leinster to final

Leinster 32 Toulouse 23: Dubliners rejoice as European odyssey continues with defeat of French giants

Some have taken to referring to the rebuilt Lansdowne Road as the "palindrome", rather than name-checking the sponsor. A fans' banner making reference to the Dublin postcode has rebranded "the Aviva" as the "D4tress". Whatever, this concrete beanbag of a stadium – plumped up at one end, strangely squashed at the other – may only have been open a few months but it has claimed a stream of notable victims: England's Grand Slam, Leicester's Heineken Cup challenge and now France's four-time European champions and cup-holders, Toulouse, in a seesaw semi-final.

What a list, and what a noise in the final five minutes, when 50,000 voices roared Leinster to a deserved victory. The supporters of the 2009 champions, who had lost their title away to Toulouse in last season's last four, roared "forward" at a pass by Yannick Jauzion and the din rose to deafening as Johnson Falefa knocked on for the French and Sean O'Brien and Richardt Strauss dived on the loose ball. Those two – Leinster's finds of the season at flanker and hooker – were shaded by a team-mate, the try-scoring No 8 Jamie Heaslip, as man of the match. Heaslip had put in a world-beating shift.

Leinster have not lost to French opposition in Ireland in 11 matches since 2003, and though they will not have home advantage in the Cardiff final on 21 May, they must be favourites to beat the winners of today's meeting of Northampton and Perpignan.

Perhaps one of those sides will fancy their scrum, but yesterday Leinster's front five gradually got on top of Toulouse and that was a tribute to the Irish-South African personnel and the coaching team led by Joe Schmidt, a New Zealander in his first year as a head coach. And, of course, there was Brian O'Driscoll. The maestro centre had an up-and-down match. He was sent to the sin-bin four minutes before half-time, for slapping the ball from Vincent Clerc in an offside position, and he was culpable, wittingly and unwittingly, in Toulouse's first try.

Later, he scored one of his own. David Skrela's penalty for the sin-bin offence made it 13-13; it was 22-20 to Leinster in the 59th minute when O'Driscoll struck. More capable defenders than Clerc and Cencus Johnston have been confounded by him in the past; the wing and the prop did not have a prayer as O'Driscoll ducked and darted between them. It was the finish to multiple phases and as Guy Noves, the Toulouse coach, admitted, it was Leinster's brilliant rucking that did for his men.

O'Driscoll said, modestly: "If we play like that again we won't win the final." But there were plenty willing to argue with him in his home city last night. A blustery wind was commanded by Jonathan Sexton, who collected 22 points with eight kicks out of eight. Sexton, who was injured for the Toulouse loss a year ago, did not play his sexiest rugby but Leinster tested the contentiously selectedClément Poitrenaud in the centres, with Isa Nacewa from full-back takingthe inside line off O'Driscoll.

Toulouse led 7-0 when O'Driscoll was penalised for not allowing the tackled player to play and then watched helplessly as the ball from Skrela's kick bounced off the post, down and back over his head, straight to Florian Fritz. The conversion by Skrela was followed by two penalties from Sexton either side of a Skrela drop-goal. Leinster's first try, on 30 minutes, was started and finished by Heaslip, taking Leo Cullen's line-out tap and – after one brilliant tackle by Yannick Nyanga – reaching through a forest of arms to score.

A brainless penalty conceded by Patricio Albacete, against 14 men, allowed Sexton to make it 16-13 to Leinster at half-time. The one-man shortage made no difference in Toulouse's second try, three minutes into the second half, but some rank gamesmanship did. Louis Picamoles, the No 8, peeled round Jean-Marc Doussain off a scrum to score, but O'Brien was blocked by Nyanga. The latter got a slap and was replaced by Thierry Dusautoir, but the try stood and Skrela converted.

The rugby grew ever more breathless – "The two teams gave their all, even to the point of exhaustion," said Noves – and a penalty by Sexton and a remarkable run by the prop Cian Healy lifted Leinster. Heinke van der Merwe's first act, on for Healy, was to help shove Toulouse back and up on their put-in, in their 22. Sexton's kick had his side 22-20 up.

The O'Driscoll try gave Leinster a cushion and they then absorbed tremendous waves of attack. Nicolas Bezy, on for Skrela, kicked a mighty penalty from a couple of metres inside halfway, but Sexton's pumping arms as he watched his sixth and final penalty sail over signposted Leinster's impressive passage.

Leinster I Nacewa; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, L Fitzgerald (F McFadden, 56-69); 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), J Heaslip, S O'Brien.

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

Referee D Pearson (England).

Leinster

Tries: Heaslip, O'Driscoll

Cons: Sexton 2

Pens: Sexton 6

Toulouse

Tries: Fritz, Picamoles

Cons: Skrela 2

Pens: Skrela, Bezy

DG: Skrela

Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Environment
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
people
Sport
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker
TV
Life and Style
Instagram daredevils get thousands of followers
techMeet the daredevil photographers redefining urban exploration with death-defying stunts
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'
TVDaughter says contestant was manipulated 'to boost ratings'
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

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor