Leinster conquer Toulouse
Defending champions de-throned in Dublin
Last Updated: 08/11/13 4:00pm
Brian O'Driscoll: scored Leinster's crucial second try
Leinster reached the Heineken Cup final for the second time in three years with a 32-23 victory over four-time champions Toulouse in Dublin.
The defending champions from the south of France were favourites to return to this year's showpiece in Cardiff, but Leinster summoned every ounce of desire and determination to hold them at bay.
The Irish side also played a fair bit of rugby and crossed for tries from Jamie Heaslip and Brian O'Driscoll, on their way to a deserved victory in front of a crowd of more than 50,000 at the Aviva Stadium.
Leinster also recovered from almost the worst possible start, as they conceded a freakish try inside four minutes.
They looked to have escaped unscathed when David Skrela's penalty attempt glanced off the side of a post, but the ball took a wicked bounce back towards the field of play and Florian Fritz seized on it to score, with Skrela happy to take two points instead of three.
The 2009 champions responded strongly and a Gordon D'Arcy burst up the middle earned a penalty, which Jonathan Sexton knocked over.
But Toulouse got another kind bounce from the re-start and quickly stretched the lead to seven points once more thanks to Skrela's well-struck drop-goal.
Sexton quickly cut the deficit again, then played a key part in Leinster's opening try on the half hour.
The forwards battered away at the Toulouse line and eventually the relentless pressure produced a gap out wide. Sexton's slip looked to have wasted the chance but he managed to get the ball out to Heaslip who did well to squeeze the ball down between defenders, the video referee confirming the score.
Clement Poitrenaud and Cedric Heymans combined superbly in the midfield for Toulouse but a fine tackle by Isa Nacewa halted the attack and Leinster won a clearing penalty at the breakdown.
But they suffered a setback when O'Driscoll was sin-binned for a cynical intervention right on his own line and Skrela levelled the scores.
The half should have ended like that, but a foolish penalty conceded by Patricio Albacete for going over the top gifted another simple three points to Sexton.
Back roared Toulouse after the break, and after Leinster pulled down a scrum close to their own line, veteran coach Guy Noves was quickly on his feet insisting his side take another set-piece.
His intervention paid dividends as the scrum pushed Leinster back and No.8 Louis Picamoles came off the back and went over through a huge gap.
Skrela converted to put Toulose 20-16 ahead but Shane Horgan claimed the re-start with a towering leap, Leinster quickly won a penalty for offside and Sexton cut the deficit to a point.
The intensity by this stage was of Test-match proportions and when Cencus Johnson was penalised for popping up at a scrum, tempers briefly boiled over. But Sexton kept his cool to nudge Leinster ahead once more.
Just before the hour mark they came up with the crucial try which pushed the difference between the sides beyond seven points for the first time. After relentless pressure on the Toulouse line, the ball was moved out to O'Driscoll and the Ireland skipper stepped inside two defenders and dived over. Sexton converted and the gap was nine points.
Inevitably Toulouse responded but the outstanding Heaslip came up with a crucial turnover at a ruck and Toulouse had to settle for a long-range penalty from replacement Nicolas Bezy.
Toulouse now needed a converted try but with three minutes left Yannick Jauzion's forward pass ended their last attacking chance and Sexton had the final word with his eighth kick from eight as time expired.