Ubiquitous No eight Jack Conan fired defending champions Leinster into the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup with a powerful 29-13 victory over Toulouse on Saturday.
The unrelenting Leinster machine, guided by former participant Leo Cullen and ex-England coach Stuart Lancaster, suffocated the free-flowing, offloading sport Toulouse have been using to such success this season. The loss was their first since September and dropped at an finish a 12-match undefeated run.
Conan was on the coronary heart of a stifling residence defence that allied seamlessly with a staggering means to maintain maintain of possession for minutes on finish.
Ross Byrne, standing in for the injured Jonny Sexton at fly-half — with Rob Kearney, Robbie Henshaw, Devin Toner and Dan Leavy all additionally lacking, kicked an early opening penalty, shortly nullified by Toulouse full-back Thomas Ramos.
A dancing Jordan Larmour break sparked an unbelievable 38 phases of play for Leinster over greater than three minutes in and across the Toulouse 22-metre space, however the guests, marshalled magnificently by ex-All Black No eight Jerome Kaino, withstood the strain.
Cheslin Kolbe was readily available with a implausible try-saving deal with on sniping Luke McGrath, the diminutive Springbok winger managing to by some means stop the Eire scrum-half from grounding the ball from a five-metre scrum.
However Leinster continued to camp out deep in Toulouse territory, Conan lastly crossing for the sport’s opening attempt on the opposite wing after a protracted go had stretched a scrambling defence.
Byrne transformed, however Ramos hit a second penalty on the whistle to depart a tense sport 10-6 at half-time at a packed RDS Area in Dublin.
Prime 14 leaders Toulouse, fielding seven gamers known as up by France coach Jacques Brunel for the opening two video games of the Six Nations, had been instantly on the again foot within the second interval as Leinster once more patiently went by means of the phases.
After which it got here. Winger Dave Kearney soared excessive to collect a Byrne cross-kick and by some means rode a Romain Ntamack deal with to the touch down within the nook.
There ought to have been a 3rd Leinster attempt shortly after, a candy line-out transfer seeing Conan take a brief throw-in and break clear, Antoine Dupont cleverly intercepting what would have been his try-scoring go to hooker Sean Cronin.
Cronin did get his title on the scoresheet, nevertheless, dotting down from the again of a ruck on the Toulouse line, Byrne changing for a 22-6 lead.
Then got here Leinster’s time to defend, a crushing deal with on Francois Cros by James Ryan bringing to an finish a number of minutes of strain.
Adam Byrne put the icing on the cake with a fourth attempt for the house aspect, and the bonus level, after Maori All Black scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park threw out a monster go from a fast penalty.
Noel Reid hit the extras, whereas there was sufficient time for Kolbe to skip away for one more positive particular person attempt he transformed himself.
After Munster’s 41-15 mauling of Gloucester on Friday, Ulster continued the Irish provinces’ successful methods with a 26-22 victory over Racing 92, who like Toulouse had gone into the sport unbeaten.
It was a wingers’ first-half, with European debutant Robert Baloucoune and Jacob Stockdale crossing for Ulster, Virimi Vakatawa and ex-Munsterman Simon Zebo going over for the guests.
Stockdale bagged his brace within the second-half as tries by Brice Dulin and Teddy Iribaren saved Racing within the sport, Will Addison including two penalties and a conversion to make the ultimate distinction.
Racing remained atop Pool four on 21 to Ulster’s 18, having managed to bag two bonus factors.