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Toulouse edge Leinster in enthralling Champions Cup final

14-man Toulouse secured a historic sixth European title with a 31-22 extra-time win over Leinster. 

The boots of Thomas Ramos and Blair Kinghorn, coupled with a Matthis Lebel try condemned Leinster to a third successive Champions Cup final defeat.

The headlines ahead of the game were dominated by Dupont vs Gibson-Park chatter, and this contest came to the fore in the first minute.

A clever grubber from Juan Cruz Mallia found Dupont with ball-in-hand close to the Leinster line, however, Gibson-Park dragged his fellow scrum-half into touch.

Toulouse did make their bright start count though, as Blair Kinghorn slotted two penalties.

Leinster finally gained a foothold in the game, but Joe McCarthy saw his effort chalked off for a knock-on.

The momentum was firmly with the Leinster now. A Romain Ntamack offload in his own 22 only found Leinster hands, which allowed Ross Byrne to open his account from the tee.

Leinster again piled the pressure on Toulouse. A powerful break from Robbie Henshaw marched the Irish outfit to within touching distance of the try-line, but Ntamack came up with a vital turnover to stop the attack in its tracks.

Dan Sheehan became the latest Leinsterman to cause some bother for Toulouse, however a great tackle from Kinghorn stopped him just inches away from the line. From the f0llowing breakdown, a costly penalty from Jamie Osborne relived the pressure for the French champions.

A 50:22 from Dupont shifted the momentum towards Toulouse. Surges from Santiago Chocobares and Matthis Lebel worked Toulouse to just five meters out, but Dupont’s pass fell to floor. Fortunately though, a penalty from the resulting scrum gave Kinghorn an easy three-pointer.

With the clock in the red, Byrne hit back with a penalty to cut Toulouse’s lead down to just three.

Second-half

The second-half began much as the first-half ended, as Byrne added his third penalty to pull his side level. Leinster kept the pressure on, however stubborn maul defence from Toulouse earned a precious reprieve.

Leinster again barged their way into Toulouse’s 22, after surges from Andrew Porter, Josh van der Flier and McCarthy looked to have broken the defence; however, Toulouse’s defence yet again stood firm and brought the attack to a sharp halt.

Defence quickly turned into attack for the French side, and they regained the lead through the boot of Kinghorn.

A string of Toulouse penalties again gave Byrne an easy three-pointer from short range, making the scores level going into the final quarter.

Leinster again set up camp in Toulouse’s 22, however Jack Willis came through for his side with a crucial turnover. Toulouse nearly rubbed salt into this gaping wound through Lebel, but a terrific tackle from Jordan Lamour meant his effort was chalked off.

The momentum was still with Toulouse though, and Thomas Ramos made it count with his first penalty of the match.

A great carry from Ciarán Frawley yet again saw Leinster positioned deep in Toulouse territory, but, as was the case for most of the match, a turnover from Dupont denied them a brilliant chance.

With the clock winding down, Frawley knocked over a penalty to draw his side level.

Frawley nearly won the title for his side with a last-gasp drop-goal, however his effort drifted agonisingly wide.

Extra-time

A James Lowe yellow-card at the start of extra time gifted Toulouse numerical advantage, and they made it count instantly through Lebel.

Ramos’ delayed pass allowed Chocobares to burst through the Leinster defence, and the replacement centre put the try on the plate for the winger. Ramos added the extras.

The momentum was firmly with the French side now, and Ramos added three more points to his haul from the tee.

Just as Toulouse gained the upper hand, they were brought crashing back to Earth as Richie Arnold was shown a red card.

Now restored to the full compliment, Leinster piled on the pressure. Lowe, McCarthy and Jack Conan all came close to scoring, however van der Flier finally broke down the rogue et noir defence as he burrowed over.

Ramos quickly dented the gathering Leinster storm, as he slotted two back-to-back penalties to give his side a nine point lead with just five minutes left.

Leo Cullen’s men looked to end on a high, however they were dragged into touch to triumphant French roars.

Leinster 22-31 Toulouse

Leinster: 22

Tries: Van der Flier

Conversions: Frawley (1/1)

Penalties: Byrne (4/4), Frawley (1/1)

Toulouse: 31

Tries: Lebel

Conversions: Ramos (1/1)

Penalties: Kinghorn (4/5), Ramos (4/5)