Lowe at the double as Leinster knock champions Toulouse out of European Champions Cup

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James Lowe. (Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
James Lowe. (Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ireland wing James Lowe scored two tries as Leinster knocked reigning title-holders Toulouse out of this season's European Champions Cup with a commanding 40-17 semi-final win in Dublin on Saturday.

Leinster, the last non-French club left in this edition, will now have a chance to equal Toulouse's all-time record of five major European titles when they face the winners of Sunday's match between Racing 92 and La Rochelle in a Marseille final on 28 May.

The Dublin-based side had a healthy 23-10 lead at half-time following tries by Lowe and Josh van der Flier, with Ireland great Jonathan Sexton landing all five of his goal-kicks in the opening 40 minutes.

France captain Antoine Dupont had helped the visitors go 7-3 up by running nearly the length of the field for a breakaway try, with Thomas Ramos adding a penalty.

Lowe, this tournament's leading try scorer, gave Leinster a decisive 20-point lead early in the second half with his second score of the match and 10th of the European campaign.

Ireland full-back Hugo Keenan then rounded off victory with the hosts' fourth try late on.

"Any time you get to a final you are extremely happy but, in some ways, it is only half done," Sexton, 37 in July, told BT Sport.

'Go again'

For Toulouse this encounter came just a week after their dramatic and draining Dublin defeat of Munster, Leinster's arch-rivals, with the French giants only prevailing after extra-time and a place-kicking shoot-out following a 24-24 draw.

Veteran flyhalf Sexton, who plans to retire following next year's World Cup in France, added: "We knew Toulouse played 100 minutes last week and they came here probably not at their best and we were close to ours.

"We have to go again against Racing 92 or La Rochelle, who are two quality sides."

Toulouse skipper Julien Marchand praised Leinster's "fast, aggressive rugby".

"When you're only going backwards, it's pretty complicated to defend," the hooker said, adding that the team would have to switch immediately to Top 14 action.

"The season is far from over. We are still not guaranteed to be in the top six (play-off spots) in the Top 14.

"We will have to start again on Monday. We are going to remobilise and learn from our mistakes, because there were some today... We have to switch straight away as it's useless to dwell on bad things."

Leinster, who beat English leaders Leicester 23-14 in the quarter-finals, went ahead through Sexton's penalty.

But they were caught cold in the sixth minute when Dupont blocked opposing scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park's grubber-kick, regathered and ran some 95 metres for a try converted by Ramos.

Sexton's second penalty reduced Toulouse's lead to a point at 7-6.

And by the 20th minute Leinster led 20-7, albeit by then their powerhouse Ireland prop Tadhg Furlong had limped off injured.

Leinster, playing a fast rucking game, in a bid to tire Toulouse's powerful pack, saw their pressure tell in the 15th minute when Sexton's inside pass released Lowe, who powered over from close range.

And four minutes later Leinster had another converted try.

Sexton made a midfield break before another well-timed inside pass found flanker van der Flier, whose momentum took him over the line despite a last-ditch tackle.

Toulouse yellow carded

Ramos and Sexton exchanged penalties to leave Leinster 13 points ahead.

Toulouse were then reduced to 14 men shortly before half-time when lock Emmanuel Meafou was sin-binned for hitting Gibson-Park before he had gathered the ball.

They managed to avoid conceding any more points while a man down but fell further behind in the 49th minute.

Leinster pounded away at the visitors' defence before Sexton's pass to Lowe saw the wing to go in unopposed.

Sexton converted and Leinster led 30-10.

Toulouse, who had only been into Leinster's 22 three times, closed the gap to 13 points in the 65th minute.

From a close-range lineout, Selevasio Tolofua collected the ball from a rolling maul and stayed in field before crossing for a converted try.

But any hopes of a Toulouse fightback were snuffed out by Leinster replacement Ross Byrne's penalty before Keenan crossed to the delight of a packed home crowd.

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