CAN LEINSTER OVERCOME the odds and win in Toulon to set up a third semi-final clash against Munster? We’re going minute-by-minute to find out.
Source: James Crombie/INPHO
Toulon 29 Leinster 14
15.53 – It’s D day for Leinster and Toulon. The past two winners of the Heineken Cup are going head to head for the right to not only remain in the competition, but to take the semi-final to their own region.
A Leinster win will pit them against Munster in Lansdowne Road. A Toulon victory will put Rob Penney’s men on the road to Marseille.
So, Munster fans, where do ye want to go?
16.00 – It’s set to be the final European bow for one of two true champions today. Both Jonny Wilkinson and Brian O’Driscoll will hang up their Adidases at the end of the season and one of them will have to forget about a dream finale in the Millenium Stadium.
That’s an intriguing subplot, but there will be plenty more undercurrents to keep an eye on. Here are your teams.
Leinster: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross; Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy; Rhys Ruddock, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip (capt.).
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Martin Moore, Leo Cullen, Jordi Murphy, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan, Zane Kirchner.
Toulon: Delon Armitage; Drew Mitchell, Mathieu Bastareaud, Matt Giteau, David Smith; Jonny Wilkinson (capt.), Sebastién Tillous-Borde; Xavier Chiocci, Craig Burden, Carl Hayman; Danie Rossouw, Jocelino Suta; Juan Smith, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Steffon Armitage.
Replacements: Jean-Charles Orioli, Florian Fresia, Martin Castrogiovanni, Virgile Bruni, Bryan Habana, Maxime Mermoz, Michael Claassens, Konstantine Mikautadze.
16.15 – Brian O’Driscoll describes his match-up with Wilko as “two granddads playing against each other”, Interesting to see how the old boys compare in the 25 degree sunshine in the south of France.
16.28 – We’re almost ready to roll in Stade Mayol. The teams are in the tunnel, the warm-ups are done. This is going to be intense from first minute to last, so strap yourself in and keep yourself hydrated.
16.33 – KICK OFF: After the traditional pre-match Bienvenue, Wilkinson gets us underway, pinning Leinster deep into their own half.
16.35 – Leinster are hanging on now in these early stages, Juan Smith coming very close to the line after a line break 10 metres out. Jennings dragged him down and they escape with a penalty.
PENALTY: Toulon 3 Leinster 0 (Wilkinson ’3)
16.39 – Apologies for the delay, folks. A few technical difficulties here, but we bring you good news about the blue scrum as Cian Healy shows an early advantage over Carl Hayman.
16.42 – Tillous-Borde has had a brilliant start for the hosts, breaking the line off the back of a line-out. Leinster are stretched and Rob Kearney comes up with a try-scoring intercept when David Smith looked to pass.
16.43 – Leinster can’t initially ease the pressure and they have to scramble again with Juan Smith hammering the line, but scramble they do and force a turnover for Kearney to smash the ball 60 metres upfield.
16.45 – Tillous-Borde puts the ball in behind Fergus McFadden and he does well to step out of trouble in the corner, but he soon runs into a huge hit and drive from Matt Giteau.
16.47 – O’Driscoll beginning to have an influence on this game with some timely chips ahead to turn Toulon on their heels. Cian Healy gets a run and Jamie Heaslip takes it into contact inside the 22, but Fernandez Lobbe forces the turnover.
OOOMPH! Dave Kearney and Delon Armitage hit each other hard in the air. That’s how aerial challenges are supposed to work. The ball spins loose and Shane Jennings is penalised at the following ruck.
Easy pickings for JW.
PENALTY! Toulon 6 Leinster 0 (Wilkinson ’18)
16.52 – A lifeline for Leinster maybe as Suta gives away a cheap knock on on his own 22. Mike Ross takes the plaudits as Wayne Barnes points to the sky.
PENALTY Toulon 6 Leinster 3 (Gopperth ’20)
17.00 – Leinster still relying on the boot to make serious gains. O’Driscoll chipping towards halfway and Heaslip forcing a knock-on turnover to set Cian Healy away and even he chips ahead and manages to charge down Wilkinson to force a line-out in the Toulon 22.
17.02 – The two granddads are both spending some time with the nurse. Wilkinson having his thigh taped up and BOD dabbing his eye with some cool, refreshing ice water.
17.04 – Two Leinster penalties and both come courtesy of Suta.
PENALTY Toulon 6 Leinster 6 (Gopperth ‘ 28)
And if that wasn’t enough of a boost, Jonny Wilkinson’s thigh has seized up and he’s been replaced by Maxime Mermoz.
17.09 – Jamie Heaslip pinged for offside after coming around the side of the scrum and that’s a chance for Matt Giteau to take up the goal-kicking tee, but 50 metres is too much to ask for the Wallaby and his kick trails wide.
17.11 – Brilliant break out of the 22 from Kearney, but if the visitors want to make real inroads he’ll need to come up with a better pass than he did to Gordon D’Arcy. The centre can only knock the ball on and Toulon come storming back.
Danie Rossouw makes a big break, steam-rolling Shane Jennings of all people before the blue shirts scramble and manage to choke the Springbok and earn a turnover.
17.13 – The big blue D is still coming up trumps. Bastareaud carries into the 22, but the breakdown is efficient and accurate and forces the centre to hold on.
17.16 – There’s that defence again. Toulon look like an impossible animal to stop when they build up a head of steam inside the 22, but Leinster keep coming up with enough to thwart them.
They’ve played most of the game in their own half, but they have survived.
HALF TIME: Toulon 6 Leinster 6
17.18 – What he said:
17.26 – All the possession and territory are in Toulon’s favour, but Leinster are level on the scoreboard and still have their talisman on the field.
17.33 – The SECOND HALF is under way and i’ve just realised that I never told ye about Fergus McFadden hobbling off injured. Zane Kirchner is in the game in his place.
17.34 – PENALTY! Toulon 9 Leinster 6 (Giteau ‘ 42)
The Australian finds his range from halfway after Jennings was penalised for hanging on.
Not the start Leinster needed.
17.38 – Here come Toulon with real momentum, this is the closest they’ve come the Leinster line and this time, after five phases within an inch of scoring Xavier Chiocci blasts over the line.
Try: Toulon 16 Leinster 6 (Chiocci ’45)
17.40 – If ever you needed Toulon’s quality illustrated it’s in the minutes after half-time. Leinster come in level and after just one or two swing moments – a turnover from Chiocci, an Armitage hit on Kearney – they open up a 10-point lead.
Can Leinster recover now? How do they come back?
17.42 – Toulon have their tales very much up now. Drew Mitchell sprints onto an Armitage pass and the Australian breaks the line inside. Leinster force the turnover and scrum well, but they have got to kill this momentum.
17.46 – Gopperth has a long-range penalty shot from the left touchline, but it trails off to the left.
Jordi Murphy is into the game in place of Jennings, but O’Connor must surely be eyeing up more changes before the hour mark.
17.47 – Ah, the ebb and flow of Heineken Cup quarter-final weekend. 10 metres closer than his miss a minute ago, he drills Leinster back to within seven.
PENALTY Toulon 16 Leinster 9 (Gopperth ’54)
17.52 – A big scrum penalty goes Leinster’s way, but it’s in their own 22 and front row dominance is negated when your second and third rows are being out-played.
17.54 – After Toulon change up their front row, Leisnter’s pack appear to catch them cold and earn a penalty off the following maul.
The back-line ignores the penalty and Gopperth spins it wide to Kirchner who takes a brilliant line around the defender and takes Leinster to the 22.
17.55 – TRY! Toulon 23 Leinster 9 (Mitchell ’62)
17.59 – Catastophe for Leinster as a loose line-out ball is fly-hacked downfield. Mermoz attacks the blindside after the first phase, but just when you think Leinster have it covered Mathieu Bastareaud storms into contact, drawing four tacklers and offloading to Drew Mitchell who scampers in under the posts.
18.03 – Well Toulon do make mistakes after all. Barnes forces them to kick at goal after the kicking tee was brought onto the field by a water carrier, but even from a mile out on an impossible angle, Delon Armitage has enough in his legs to blast it between the posts.
PENALTY Toulon 26 Leinster 9 (Armitage ’67)
18.04 – The ‘Rock boys in the building are coming into the game. But the deficit is far too great for either Ian Madigan or Leo Cullen to make an impact from here.
18.08 – TRY! Toulon 26 Leinster 14 (Murphy ’70)
I stand corrected, Cullen takes a line-out ball after Madigan kicked for the corner. It’s a powerful drive from the visitors, perhaps catching Toulon easing off the pedal, and Jordi Murphy grounds the ball in the corner.
Madigan is unable to convert.
18.11 – YELLOW CARD: Florian Fresia
Toulon will finish up with 14 men as Fresia is binned for a dangerous clear-out.
18.17 – PENALTY! Toulon 29 Leinster 14 (Giteau ‘ 78)
The hosts steady the ship keep the party and the newspaper-ripping going in the stands.
18.23 – FULL TIME: Toulon 29 Leinster 14
There’s one last O’Driscoll break and a scrap to round it all off, but some Leinster fans will tonight feel that their side didn’t have enough of that about them today.
Personally, I felt they did as well as this incredible Toulon pack allowed them to perform.
Munster will gobble up every second of this match-tape, desperately searching for something they can use when they meet RCT in the semi-final on April 27. Perhaps in Marseille, Toulon will be missing just a little bit of their X Factor, but that will probably be of little concern to any Leinster fan who has read down this far.