Ross Byrne (right) started at fly-half for Leinster in Johnny Sexton’s absence
European Champions Cup
Leinster (10) 29
Tries: Conan, D Kearney, Cronin, A Byrne Cons: R Byrne 2, Reid Pens: R Byrne
Toulouse (6) 13
Try: Kolbe Con: Kolbe Pens: Ramos 2,

Holders Leinster moved top of Pool One in the Champions Cup as they earned a bonus-point win over Toulouse in the battle of Europe’s form sides.

Minus injured Johnny Sexton, Leinster struggled to turn possession into points early on at the RDS.

But Jack Conan’s 35th-minute try helped Leinster take a 10-6 advantage over the Top 14 leaders by half-time.

Dave Kearney’s 51st-minute score was followed by Sean Cronin and Adam Byrne tries before Cheslin Kolbe’s reply.

Pool One
Played Won Points
1. Leinster 5 4 20
2. Toulouse 5 4 17
3. Bath 5 1 9
4. Wasps 5 0 4

Leinster’s win, which avenged their 28-27 defeat at the Stade Ernest Wallon in October, guarantees their quarter-final spot – although Toulouse remain in position to qualify before their home game against Bath next Sunday when the holders will secure a home last-eight tie if they win at Wasps.

Ross Byrne produced a superb cross-kick for Kearney’s try as he deputised impressively for Sexton, with Leinster winning conclusively despite also being without the injured Rob Kearney, Robbie Henshaw, Dan Leavy, Devin Toner and Sean O’Brien.

Thomas Ramos kicked Toulouse’s two first-half penalties but despite the presence of South Africa wing Kolbe and seven members of France’s Six Nations squad, they struggled to create attacking opportunities in the opening hour.

After Cronin’s try extended Leinster’s lead to 16 points, Toulouse finally produced intense pressure but the home defence held firm before Byrne’s late try secured the bonus point as the visitors’ 12-match winning run in Europe and the Top 14 came to an end.

Jack Conan’s try helped Leinster lead 10-6 at half-time at the RDS

Leinster show patience

Byrne and Ramos swapped early penalties but the pattern was set early on as Leinster produced almost constant pressure which left them with a 70% possession stat by the interval.

Toulouse hoped they had struck a psychological blow when they ended a 38-phase Leinster attack in the 20th minute with the home side also inhibited by handling errors.

But after Kolbe denied scrum-half Luke McGrath from grounding, Conan finally ended Toulouse’s resistance after a looping pass from Garry Ringrose stretched the visitors’ defence.

Ramos’ second penalty cut Leinster’s lead to 10-6 by the break but the home side’s domination continued after the break with Kearney soaring to gather Byrne’s cross-kick and brushing past Romain Ntamack to score in the left corner.

Livewire hooker Cronin dotted down from the base of a ruck to increase Leinster’s lead to 22-6 and wing Byrne secured the champions’ bonus point following a quick penalty after the home side had repelled intense Toulouse pressure.

Kolbe sprinted in for Toulouse’s try in the final play of the game but it mattered little as the winger’s own conversion still left the visitors well shy of a losing bonus point.

What they said

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen:

“We managed possession quite well in the first half. Toulouse had this big wall of defenders the whole time and our guys showed good patience to keep hold of the ball.

“It was much better at the start of the second half where we played in their half of the field and picked off a few scores when they came along.

“We still have a lot of work to do to try and win our pool. They [Wasps] won’t make it easy.”

Leinster: Larmour; Byrne, Ringrose, O’Loughlin, D Kearney; Byrne, McGrath; Healy, Cronin, Furlong; Fardy, Ryan; Ruddock (capt), van der Flier, Conan.

Replacements: Tracy, E Byrne, Porter, Molony, Deegan, Gibson-Park, Reid, C O’Brien.

Toulouse: Medard; Kolbe, Guitoune, Ntamack, Huget; Ramos, Dupont; Castets, Marchand (capt), Faumuina; Arnold, Tekori; Cros, Elstadt, Kaino.

Replacements: Mauvaka, Baille, Aldegheri, Faasalele, Madaule, Placines, Bezy, Holmes.

Referee: L Pearce (RFU)

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