Toulouse 35 Leinster 41: O'Driscoll's heroes pull off stunning upset

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The Independent Online

Suspicions that Ireland's cup had well and truly runneth over with victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and a Six Nations Triple Crown proved premature as Leinster shattered the Heineken Cup champions in their own back yard.

By any standards this was one of the greatest upsets in sporting history. Leinster's wondrous win, a victory for their sheer bravado, courage and endless spirit, was handsomely deserved. But, even better, it set up a home semi-final in Dublin, an occasion which will surely set old Lansdowne Road rattling.

Leinster's loyal troupe of fans witnessed a pulsating, throbbing contest. They sang "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" and an array of other songs. If any of them ever got to bed last night they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Toulouse looked strangely without direction for much of this match. Perhaps they were just stunned by the audacity of Leinster in playing them at their own game and punishing them with brilliant finishing.

Leinster's self belief, crucial to their well-being in this intimidating, passionate atmosphere, was fortified by Felipe Contepomi's kicking and generalship. Five kicks out of five inside the first 35 minutes spoke of his metronomic accuracy, but he did a whole lot more than just put boot to ball, including triggering Denis Hickie's brilliant second-half try from 95 metres out.

Leinster applied the most elegant sword to cut down the champions, playing with speed and verve throughout. Toulouse were stunned by the spectacle, unable to comprehend as the spirited Irishmen built up leads of 19-9, 26-18 and then, crucially, 41-21. Not even Toulouse could come back from that, even though Yannick Nyanga and Yannick Jauzion scored tries in the final six minutes.

Leinster were better all over the field and their forwards put up a stirring display to hold the Toulouse eight. It was 19-9 at half-time, Brian O'Driscoll scoring brilliantly after Shane Horgan's break and Contepomi landing four penalties. Horgan got the last Leinster try after 64 minutes, after Hickie had scorched over and Cameron Jowitt punished a Frédéric Michalak blunder. Contepomi finished with a haul of 21 points.

Jean-Baptiste Elissalde grabbed 22, but Toulouse were well beaten long before the end of a pulsating affair. This was one of the best Heineken games there can ever have been, and certainly one of the greatest upsets.

Toulouse: C Poitrenaud; V Clerc, Y Jauzion, F Fritz (M Kunavore, 68), C Heymans; F Michalak (J-F Dubois, 66), J-B Elissalde; J-B Poux, Y Bru (capt; V Lacombe, 70), O Hasan (G Menkarska, 68), F Pelous, T Brennan (R Millo-Chlusky, 48), J Bouilhou (G Lamboley, 60), F Maka, Y Nyanga.

Leinster: G Dempsey; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll (capt; K Lewis, 77), G D'Arcy (R Kearney, 72), D Hickie; F Contepomi, G Easterby; R Corrigan (R MacCormack, 52), B Blaney, W Green, B Williams, M O'Kelly, C Jowitt (E Miller, 60), J Heaslip, K Gleeson.

Referee: D Pearson (England).