Monday, 14 December 2015

Toulon Win Leaves Leinster Hoping

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Toulon, the champions, bounced back from their defeat by Wasps and all but ended Leinster’s hopes of qualifying with a 24-9 victory over the Irish province in Pool One at Stade Mayol day.

Toulon, who included their latest big signing, the All Black World Cup winner Ma’a Nonu, for the first time in a Champions Cup match, extended their unbeaten home run in the tournament to 16 games with a hard-fought victory.

Leinster, who, like Toulon, have won Europe’s premier club competition three times, arrived knowing that a third consecutive defeat would end any hopes they had of reaching the last eight and they did not help themselves by having three forwards sent to the sin-bin. The flanker Steffon Armitage scored both tries for the home side from driving lineouts.

The visitors were given the perfect start when the former Saracens and England prop Matt Stevens collapsed the first scrum and Jonny Sexton landed a penalty from near the halfway line after only three minutes.

Early indiscretions by Toulon allowed Leinster to build an advantage, with Sexton doubling the lead from his second penalty in the sixth minute after the home side had gone over the top at a ruck.

If the signs were encouraging for Leo Cullen’s side, they were given a reminder of Toulon’s power after 10 minutes.

Having ignored a penalty within kicking range and instead sent the ball into the right corner, they turned a line-out take by Samu Manoa into a driving maul which resulted in Armitage crossing for a try which the scrum-half √Čric Escande improved.

Escande then kicked a penalty to make it 10-6, but Sexton replied to make it a one point game at the end of the first half.

Leinster survived for 10 minutes without the prop Cian Healy, who was sent to the sin-bin for a reckless challenge on Guilhem Guirado at a ruck. But it was a different story when Devin Toner was shown the yellow card six minutes into the second half.

This time Escande was able to add two more penalties to his tally and by the time the Ireland lock returned the home side had moved into a 16-9 lead.

There was one more penalty from the boot of the scrum-half in the 67th minute which ended the visitors hopes of salvaging a losing bonus point.

The replacement lock Tom Denton was the third Leinster forward to be sent to the sin-bin and no sooner had he gone off than Armitage went over again for Toulon.

There will be a 30,000-plus crowd at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin when the two teams meet again on Saturday but the prospects for Leinster, with only one point from three games, are extremely bleak.

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