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Five things we learned from Leinster’s Champions Cup defeat to Toulouse

Marginal calls; Toulouse repel Leinster maul; Frawley’s high stakes hit and miss; Leinster fail to exploit extra man; time for a TMO shot clock?

Leinster come out on the wrong side of marginal calls

Rugby outcomes are increasingly coming down to the team that gets the balance of the referee’s marginal decisions. An illustration came before half-time, when Jamison Gibson-Park gets to a breakdown. Joe McCarthy lurches forward with his hand trailing over the top of the ball. Did he touch it forward? Leinster’s openside flanker Will Connors, who is lying face down sprawled across some other bodies then appears to move the ball forward with his boot just as Gibson-Park goes to pick up. Gibson-Park then lets the ball out to his left. It eventually gets to James Lowe who streaks up the touchline to score what he thinks is a try. Unknown to Lowe referee Matthew Carley had seen a knock-on and brings back the play. Leinster didn’t get that decision and it was a big one.

Leinster’s maul rolls into rock-like Toulouse defence

The Monday morning quarterback may look at Leinster’s decisions in the early phases of the match and ask whether outhalf Ross Byrne might have got the scoreboard moving in their favour from the beginning rather than kicking the ball to touch. Leinster have a well-structured attacking lineout and the platform has given them tries in the past, very often with hooker Dan Sheehan peeling away to score. But it didn’t work with the Toulouse defence co-ordinated and working effectively each time Leinster tried to muscle a rolling maul from close to the line. Certainly, in the opening quarter Leinster went there three or four times and got nothing from it. Conversely Toulouse kicked everything they got at the Leinster goal.

Frawley’s hit and miss highlight the pressure stakes

We already knew that the outcome of European finals turn on incredibly narrow margins. And it was illustrated perfectly in the 78th minute of the match when replacement Ciarán Frawley was asked to take his first kick of the game. Before that Ross Byrne had been accurately kicking the Leinster goals. It was a few minutes from the end of the match and Toulouse were ahead 15-12. A nerveless Frawley nails the kick between the posts to draw the match level at 15-15 and seconds later positions himself back in the pocket for a winning drop goal effort. Jamison Gibson-Park delivers the perfect ball, the clock on 79:21, only for Frawley’s glory punt to sail wide of the mark. Hero and villain all in a matter of seconds.

Leinster fail to exploit extra man

Leinster will pore over the final and work out how they were unable to exploit the extra man for the last 10 minutes or so of the final. When James Lowe was sinbinned for 10 minutes after flicking a hand at the ball for an interception, which referee Matthew Carley judged to have been a deliberate foul to stop the pass going out, Toulouse instantly replied with a try, which became 10 points. The ball went out wide with Matthis Lebel galloping down the left side. Lowe’s seat was hardly warm by the time Toulouse scored. However, when Richie Arnold was handed a red card for charging into Cian Healy’s head around the 90th minute, thoughts turned to advantage Leinster and how wrong that turned out to be.

Is it time for the TMO to go on the shot clock?

There were two big calls during the final that allowed for anyone watching at home to fill the kettle, boil the water and stir up a brew. The first involved Jamison Gibson-Park’s wonderful covering tackle of player of the match Antoine Dupont. The Leinster scrumhalf motors across after Dupont takes off. He gets to the French player and knocks him into touch. It then goes into a series of replays to determine if Dupont’s foot had touched the line as he wheeled across. It did. The other was when Josh van der Flier scored his try. Again, the endless replays were conducted over and over until it was determined that yes he did ground the ball without a Toulouse hand underneath. A shot clock then for TMOs?

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times