A win is a win in knockout rugby and thats exactly how Leinster will be looking at their triumph in the Aviva over Bath. An unconvincing 18-15 win was enough to see Leinster through to the Semi-final of this years Champions Cup where they will face the huge task of facing Toulon in Marseille.
The win was not as Leinster would have hoped, at home to Bath Matt O’Connor’s side would expect to win comfortably but that was not the case, instead it was a nervy finish to the game with Ian Madigan guiding the Irish side to victory with his boot.
Its not to say Bath are a weak team, their young squad contains some of England’s stars of the future, George Ford, Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph were all in the starting 15 on Saturday. However they are not anywhere near the standard of Toulon who are up next for Matt O’Connor’s side.
Toulon will go into the semi-final as massive favourites as they look to get to another European final and win it for the third consecutive time, a feat never before accomplished by any side.They were similarly disappointing by their own standards defeating another Aviva Premiership side, Wasps, 32-18. Toulon failed to brush the English side aside as expected in a error littered game of rugby.
With home advantage and the psychological edge that comes with overcoming Leinster in the quarter-final’s last year they will fully be expecting to make it to another final. Leinster will need to play to their absolute maximum to stand a chance against the French side and will rely heavily on the likes of Madigan and Gopperth to set the tone.
Of course Toulon are not unbeatable, without the steadying force and calming presence that was Jonny Wilkinson they have lost a real leader, the quality of players within their ranks is without question but the loss of such an influential player is bound to make an impact. The injury to Matt Giteau was another big bonus for the opposition but after making his return against Wasps he should be fully fit for the visit of Leinster.
It does look like its all down to Leinster to stop what is set up for another all French final, Toulon’s domestic rivals Clermont were simply sensational in their quarter final clash with Aviva Premiership leaders Northampton trashing them 37-5. There semi-final game is against Saracens who will have their work cut out to stop Clermont’s devastating back-line.