Sexton Set For Saracens Battle As Leinster Reach Champions Cup Final

Fit-again captain Jonathan Sexton told Leinster to prepare for the "biggest battle of our careers" after guiding the Irish province into a European Champions Cup final against Saracens.

The Ireland fly-half was in fine form as title-holders Leinster beat Toulouse 30-12 at Dublin's Aviva Stadium on Sunday in the second of this weekend's semi-finals.

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Victory means Leinster will have the chance to clinch a tournament-record sixth European crown when they face English champions Saracens, unbeaten in Europe this season, in the May 11 final in Newcastle.

Leinster won the trophy last season and Saracens lifted it the two seasons before that. The final at St James' Park is also a repeat of last season's quarter-final, when Leinster ended Saracens' bid for a third straight European crown.

Leinster outscored French league leaders Toulouse three tries to none on Sunday, with the visitors having just four penalties to show for their efforts.

Fly-half Sexton, far from his best as Ireland lost their Six Nations title this season, was playing his first match since facing Wales in Cardiff on March 16. He had been out with a thigh injury.

Cramming For Exam

Encouragingly for Irish hopes at this year's World Cup in Japan, he looked somewhere near his best both as a goalkicker and in open play.

"During the week I felt like I was cramming for a big exam, I haven't trained in a few weeks so I had to fit in a lot of work during the week," Sexton told Virgin Media.

"I probably tried to do a little bit too much during the week but I'm just delighted to be in another final.

"It's special, but we don't play to get to finals, we play to try and win stuff. Hopefully, we can go one step further."

But if they are to do that, Sexton's side must beat a Saracens team who enjoyed a commanding 32-16 win over Munster, Leinster's Irish arch-rivals, on Saturday.

"We saw yesterday how they dominated Munster and we know how tough a side Munster are," said Sexton. "So we'll be up against it but we'll prepare now for the biggest battle of our careers."

Full-back Thomas Ramos opened the scoring in the fifth minute only for Sexton to draw Leinster level soon afterwards in front of a crowd of more than 42,000.

Leinster took the lead when Sean O'Brien found James Lowe who broke a tackle from Pita Akhi to score in the left corner. It was the winger's  sixth try in eight European appearances.

Both sides suffered first-half sin-binnings.

A hand in the ruck by Toulouse lock Richie Gray saw him yellow carded.

With Toulouse down to 14, Luke McGrath scored from a maul.

Then Henshaw's deliberate knock-on made it 14-a-side, with experienced English referee Wayne Barnes deciding against awarding a penalty try even though prop Charlie Faumuina was set to score from the pass.

Ramos' penalty double kept Toulouse in touch, with Leinster denied another Lowe try due to obstruction by Jack Conan in the build-up.

Sexton's kicking, meant Leinster led 17-6 against fellow four-time European champions Toulouse at half-time in what was effectively a home game for the Dublin-based side.

Leinster had absorbed the loss of Rhys Ruddock who fell ill pre-match. His replacement, Australian back-row Scott Fardy, crossed for the champions' third try in the 52nd minute after good work in the build-up by Jordan Larmour and Cian Healy.

Toulouse replacement Romain Ntamack kicked a penalty but that was nullified by Sexton in his final act of the game before he went off in the 65th minute. 

Ross Byrne, Sexton's replacement, completed the scoring with a late penalty.

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