Investec Champions Cup: Toulouse 38-26 Harlequins - Toulouse battle past Quins to reach final (2024)

Investec Champions Cup semi-final

Toulouse: (31) 38

Tries: Lebel, Mauvaka, Flament, Dupont 2, Mallia Cons: Kinghorn 3, Ramos

Harlequins: (12) 26

Tries: Smith, Evans, Murley, Green Cons: Smith 3

Toulouse had to withstand a spirited second-half fightback to beat Harlequins and book their place in a first Investec Champions Cup final for three years.

The five-time winners cruised into a healthy lead in the south of France after five tries in the opening 40 minutes from Matthis Lebel, Peato Mauvaka, Thibaud Flament and two for talisman Antoine Dupont.

Quins had crossed through Marcus Smith and Will Evans but trailed by 19 points at the break before testing Toulouse's resolve with tries by Cadan Murley and Tyrone Green.

The visitors reduced the deficit to five points and could smell an upset at a nervy Stadium de Toulouse before Jack Walker was sent to the sin bin for making direct head contact with Dupont.

Toulouse, with the player advantage, immediately punished the hooker as Juan Cruz Mallia scored in the corner to register the hosts' first points of the half and break Quins' resistance.

The Top 14 side will face four-time winners Leinster in a final meeting of the two most successful sides in Champions Cup history at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Saturday, 25 May.

Quins caused an upset to reach their first Champions Cup semi-final with a thrilling one-point win at Bordeaux-Begles, but they were unable to recreate their blistering start on their return to France.

Romain Ntamack fed Lebel with a wide pass for the opening try early on before Marcus Smith handed Quins a brief lead after converting his own clever finish under the posts.

The sides exchanged further tries from identical positions as first Mauvaka and then Evans were the beneficiaries of powerful driving mauls, before Toulouse took control.

Chandler Cunningham-South juggled the loose ball to allow Flament to steal possession and score his side's third and Dupont reacted quickest to add another two from close range after flowing moves from the men in red shirts.

Quins will have gained confidence from fellow Premiership side Northampton's second-half recovery in their semi-final defeat by Leinster on Saturday and they began to impose themselves after returning from the changing rooms.

Their dominance at the breakdown began to tell and Murley finished Smith's winding pass with an acrobatic finish in the corner before Green made two important individual contributions before finishing off an excellent try with his third.

The Quins full-back made the initial break and then linked play a couple of phases later with another strong run and clever offload before finally cutting an unstoppable line against the traffic to score under the posts.

The contrast from the partisan atmosphere at the end of the first half to the anxious hush on the hour mark at Stadium de Toulouse was stark, but the noise was about to return after a poor decision by Walker.

In a frantic attempt to prevent Dupont from pinching the ball at the breakdown, the hooker lost control and made contact with the scrum-half's head. On another day, it could have been red but the damage was done so late on in the game.

Neat hands in midfield by Ntamack freed space for Mallia to crash his way through two covering Quins defenders and over the line for victory.

Former Northampton fly-half and BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra pundit Paul Grayson:

Every credit to Harlequins for withstanding the first-half onslaught. Yes, they made some mistakes and hurt themselves, but they fought their way back into the game and an unfortunate sin-binning handed the advantage back to Toulouse.

Harlequins showed the very best of Harlequins rugby in the second half and for a period of time Toulouse, a European rugby powerhouse, could not stop them.

The experience of playing in an occasion like this will be invaluable for the Harlequins players.

After the two great semi-finals, we now have the final that the tournament wanted, with the two best teams going head to head at Tottenham in what could be an absolute grandstand event.

Toulouse: Kinghorn; Cruz Mallia, Costes, Ahki, Lebel; Ntamack, Dupont (capt); Baille, Mauvaka, Aldegheri, Flament, Meafou, Cros, Willis, Roumat.

Replacements: Marchand, Neti, Merkler, Arnold, Castro-Ferreira, Graou, Chocobares, Ramos.

Harlequins: Green; Lynagh, Northmore, Esterhuizen, Murley; Smith, Care; Baxter, Walker, Collier, Herbst, Lewies (capt), Cunningham-South, Evans, Dombrandt.

Replacements: Riley, Marler, Kerrod, Hammond, Chisholm, Porter, Evans, Beard.

Investec Champions Cup: Toulouse 38-26 Harlequins - Toulouse battle past Quins to reach final (2024)
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