Rugby-Attack kings Toulouse go on the defensive to win title

  • Rugby
  • Sunday, 26 May 2024

Rugby Union - European Champions Cup - Final - Leinster v Toulouse - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, Britain - May 25, 2024 Toulouse's Antoine Dupont lifts the trophy with teammates to celebrate winning the European Champions Cup Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

LONDON (Reuters) - Toulouse came into the Champions Cup final on a wave of attacking rugby, averaging 6.6 tries per match, but it was their commitment to defence that made the difference as they held, then overwhelmed Leinster 31-22 after extra time on Saturday.

The French side made 242 tackles to the 137 of Leinster, with a remarkable 30 chalked up by their relentless English flanker Jack Willis.

He was edged for man of the match by Antoine Dupont, who made eight tackles and four turnovers, as the world’s best scrumhalf showed the other part of his all-round game.

"It was difficult to impose our game plan but we knew if we stayed patient and worked hard we would eventually find some space and that was the case with the try," Dupont said of Matthis Lebel’s extra-time score that swung the game in his side’s favour after it finished at 15-15 after 80 minutes.

Toulouse coach Ugo Mola also recognised the quality of the rearguard.

"We were really well set up in defence," he said. "We didn’t concede space in key moments – it’s half-intensity, half-discipline. We wanted to be really intense in the jackal and we were.

"After the red card (for lock Richie Arnold at the end of the first half of extra time), we had to show some personality and I think we controlled the second half of extra time.”

Flyhalf Romain Ntamack joined his father Emile as a double European champion.

"We didn’t use the ball enough to make it difficult for them but I cannot remember a time when we produced so a defensive display," he said.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen had a similar view after his side fell to a third successive final defeat.

"It was a very tight contest, I thought we had some really positive passages but they scrambled well and came up with some big moments defensively," he said.

"We were immense and kept firing shots but just didn’t get the rewards and everyone is devastated.

"We back our attack in general and believe we can score tries and it was right there until the last play really.

We are devastated," Cullen added.

"The lads have been immense in terms of the character they’ve shown and they’ll have to show some more as we probably know what’s coming after losing three in a row."

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond)

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