Analysis: How Toulouse exploited Leinster in Champions Cup loss
The good times are back at Toulouse.
The four-time European champions have endured a barren last couple of years with no Top 14 title since 2012 and no European Cup trophy since 2010 but that could soon change with Les "rouge et noir" sitting at the top of Pool 1 with four wins from four games as well as keeping pace with Clermont at the top of the Top 14.
Toulouse will come to the RDS this weekend to face reigning European champions Leinster and they will be buoyed by their recent victory over Leo Cullen's side in October; a 28-27 win at the Stade Ernest-Wallon.
A late Maxime Medard try sealed the win for this weekend's visitors and although it was only a one point game there was some interesting statistics behind the match.
What's interesting here is that Leinster had more possession, passes and more runs but made less metres, less than half as many breaks and less than a third of the amount of offloads.
Toulouse's ability to free the ball in the tackle and find the next ball carrier was a key part of their attack and ultimately dragged them over the line against Leinster.
Here we can see locks Florian Verhaeghe and Joe Tekori with a nice interchange before the latter finds Sebastien Bezy with an offload of his own.
Leinster snuff out the play and ultimately force a knock on but it's an early indication of Toulouse's gameplan and they certainly maintained this pace for the rest of the match.
Below we can see Toulouse number eight Selevasio Tolofua use some excellent footwork to throw Leinster flanker Sean O'Brien off balance before he then accelerates and draws in the tackle of Garry Ringrose.
Ringrose takes him to ground but Tolofua finds centre Sofiane Guitoune who puts an excellent step on Jordan Larmour to round the young full-back and score.
Similarly, with the game on the line and Leinster leading by six points, Toulouse intercepted a Luke McGrath pass and went the full length of the field with some great passing before Maxime Medard crashed over in the corner to score what was ultimately the game winning try.
Substitute Louis-Benoit Madaule jumped the passing lane and plucked the ball from the air and it was indicative of the type of pressure that Toulouse applied to Leinster.
Their linespeed was great and they continually met Leinster at the line and stopped the defending champions from getting over the gainline.
They made 85% of their tackles but what was arguably even more impressive was how they were able to read Leinster's plays before they developed.
Below we can see Toulouse stop two Leinster set plays on back-to-back phases.
Leinster have frequently deployed Sexton at second-receiver off set plays this season and the design here is for Henshaw to hit Ringrose with a crash ball or alternatively Tomane off the inside pass.
Toulouse do a great job at reading the play with Thomas Ramos making a great read to deny Sexton while Yoann Huget and Cheslin Kolbe take care of Tomane, with Kolbe driving his shoulder in high to disrupt the offload.
On the very next play Leinster run a double block with Jack Conan and Ringrose serving as the decoy runners but Guitoune makes the right read and stops the looping James Lowe in his tracks.
Leinster lost by just a single point in Toulouse and they scored some great tries in this game with Sean O'Brien's score a real treat to watch.
But Toulouse will come to Dublin this weekend and there's a good chance they may look to move the ball in the tackle.
They play fast, they keep the ball alive, they have outstanding backs in Guitoune, Kolbe and Medard and they often make good reads in defence.
Leinster have not lost a home game all season and thrashed both Wasps and Bath when they came to Dublin but Toulouse should be their toughest test yet and if the first game is anything to go by we should be in store for another brilliant contest on Saturday.