/ Rugby

Toulon 29-14 Leinster

Updated: Sunday, 06 Apr 2014 21:05 | Comments

Juan Smith of Toulon, with team-mate Danie Rossouw in support, takes on Cian Healy Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip and Rhys Ruddock in action for Leinster
Juan Smith of Toulon, with team-mate Danie Rossouw in support, takes on Cian Healy Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip and Rhys Ruddock in action for Leinster

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Defending Heineken Cup champions Toulon knocked out three-time winners Leinster 29-14 in a titanic struggle in France to set up a semi-final clash with Munster.

Xavier Chiocci and Drew Mitchell scored second-half tries while Matt Giteau kicked 10 points to steer the holders through.

Jonny Wilkinson also kicked two penalties before he was forced off during the first half through injury.

Delon Armitage kicked a penalty while brother Steffon was named man of the match following a dynamic display.

Jordi Murphy grabbed a late try for Leinster but that was too late to rescue the visitors in what was to be Brian O'Driscoll's final appearance in the Heineken Cup.

Between them these teams had lifted the trophy four times in the last five years yet this was their first meeting in the tournament.

Wilkinson kicked Toulon into a 6-0 lead though it was only some desperate Leinster defending that prevented it from being more.

Toulon, roared on by their vociferous support at the sun-drenched Stade Felix-Mayol, began at a thunderous pace, led by Mathieu Bastareaud.

The powerful French centre was twice involved in the build-up to the first of Wilkinson's penalties.

Wilkinson then put David Smith through and only a crucial interception by Rob Kearney prevented a score.

That was to prove a recurring theme during the first half as Toulon were knocked off their stride by Leinster and wasted several chances.

Giteau evaded Rhys Ruddock, Mitchell broke clear and twice Craig Burden made inroads but all came to nothing amid catalogue of handling errors.

More mistakes also resulted in Wilkinson, forced to clear the danger following a dropped pass and blocked kick, trudging off injured in the 28th minute following a heavy collision.

And Jimmy Gopperth's two kicks ensured Leinster went in level 6-6 at half-time amid a chorus of whistles and boos from the restless home crowd.

Jeers turned to cheers when Toulon burst into a 10-point lead just five minutes into the second half.

Giteau struck from close to the halfway line, having missed an earlier effort from a similar range.

The former Wallaby then followed another searing break by livewire hooker Burden.

Juanne Smith and Danie Rossouw were stopped short before prop Chiocci crashed over from close range.

Gopperth clawed back three points but the game turned once Toulon made their passes stick.

Rossouw disrupted a Leinster lineout that had been erratic throughout and Steffon Armitage hacked ahead.

The English number eight showed tremendous pace to win the foot race and Bastareaud crashed through three tackles before Mitchell shrugged off Gordon D'Arcy to score a vital try on 62 minutes.

Giteau converted and Delon Armitage added a penalty from the halfway line as Toulon established a commanding 26-9 lead.

Leinster showed their mettle when they responded with a well-worked try - Murphy was bundled over from a lineout drive five metres out 10 minutes from time.

However Gopperth missed the conversion from the touchline and Toulon remained just out of sight.

The hosts ended the game with 14 men when Florian Fresia was binned for a dangerous tackle on Reddan yet it was they who had the last word.

Kearney's tackle denied David Smith a score but Giteau followed with his fourth kick to settle the tie in the final minutes.

The win means Munster will face Toulon in Marseille's Stade Velodrome at 3.30 Irish time on Sunday 27 April.

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