Skrela and the Toulouse pack punish Leinster

Toulouse 26 Leinster 16

"Mayday, mayday" – the cry of distress reverberated through Leinster's ranks in sodden Toulouse on the first day of May. Not even a frantic afternoon of scrambling defence could keep the Heineken Cup in the Dubliners' hands. Toulouse reached the final by means of superior forward power and they also had the greater power in the loose, setting up decisive second-half tries for two backs, Yannick Jauzion and David Skrela.

Skrela finished with 21 points and was man of the match. But it was the Toulouse pack who won the game. Insufficient scrummaging power under-mined Ireland's Six Nations this year, especially against France in Paris. One wonders whether a similar story might unfold when Biarritz play Munster in San Sebastian this afternoon.

A mayday call would have been appropriate before kick-off, given the soaked pitch and lashing rain that greeted the teams as they came out to warm up. The Australia flanker Rocky Elsom powered Leinster to the Heineken title last year and his fearsome driving of the loose ball would have been invaluable in such conditions. He, however, is back Down Under, and in his absence Leinster's indiscipline cost them dear. Careless offsides around the fringes of rucks handed Skrela two early penalties.

Toulouse were thus 6-0 up when a massive effort from their scrum and Byron Kelleher's kick cost Leinster 40 metres. A swinging arm by the prop Stan Wright soon after cost the champions another 40m. These were expensive foibles, particularly when the scrum-half Eoin Reddan lost the ball on the Toulouse line in a tackle from Kelleher. The fly-half Shaun Berne's inaccurate kicking in open play showed how much Leinster missed the injured Jonathan Sexton.

Leinster pushed back into the game and tested Toulouse but they were fighting against not just the superior forward power of their opponents but also a fiercely partisan crowd. European Rugby Cup insists that its semi-finals should not be played on neutral territory. Such a policy remains a mystery to most.

However, Leinster made far too many mistakes to expect to win a Heineken semi-final wherever it was played and Toulouse were simply the better team. They led 9-0 within the half-hour, thanks to another Skrela penalty. Extraordinarily, Leinster had clawed that back to 9-9 within three minutes of the start of the second half, Berne having kicked two penalties and the full-back Rob Kearney another.

Unfortunately for Leinster, the team who upped the ante from there on was Toulouse. The wing Isa Nacewa missed an important tackle as the French side attacked hard down the right, and although Shane Horgan managed to cut down Vincent Clerc, the Toulouse forwards recycled loose ball three times and eventually the centre Jauzion forced his way over the Leinster line for the game's first try. Skrela converted.

Leinster had to score next but instead Skrela, using fast, second-phase possession, put the match beyond them with a slashing midfield break which took him over under the posts. His conversion made it 23-9. The industrious No 8 Jamie Heaslip gave Leinster a glimmer of hope with a 64th-minute try in the left corner, after Brian O'Driscoll had freed Gordon D'Arcy and Reddan down the middle with a neat chip. Berne converted from the touchline. But Skrela then closed the door with his fourth penalty, 11 minutes from the end.

Toulouse's forwards will ensure that Biarritz or Munster will have to play extremely well in the final, at the Stade de France in Paris on 22 May, to deny Guy Noves's men their reward.

Toulouse: C Poitrenaud; V Clerc, F Fritz, Y Jauzion, C Heymans (M Médard, 40); D Skrela (J-B Elissalde, 73), B Kelleher; D Human (Y Montes, 71), W Servat (V Lacombe, 74), B Lecouls (J-B Poux, 44), R Millo-Chluski (Y Maestri, 55), P Albacete, J Bouilhou, S Sowerby (L Picamoles, 72), T Dusautoir (capt).

Leinster: R Kearney; S Horgan; B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, I Nacewa; S Berne, E Reddan; C Healy (CJ van der Linde, 30), J Fogerty, S Wright (Healy, 56), L Cullen (capt), N Hines, K McLaughlin (M O'Kelly, 65), J Heaslip, S Jennings (S Keogh, 51).

Referee: N Owens (Wales).

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
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

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine