I can remember growing up and watching Germany dismantle teams like Brazil and Argentina which, on paper, looked more talented. So the worry walking into the Aviva Stadium was that a talented Leinster team was facing a side with incredible power, and that X-factor.
oulouse have had a difficult season. They are sixth in the Top 14, having lost 11 of their 24 matches and in Europe they have had to go to the well emotionally and physically to beat Ulster and Munster.
If they had knocked a third Irish province off their perch it might have impacted at international level as there is that nagging fear that our high-tempo style of play will come undone when we face South Africa, France or an England team at their best again.
Having rebuilt after the dip at the end of the Guy Noves era, Toulouse now have to learn how to manage the challenge of providing 10 players to the international side and still have the depth to win week-in, week-out.
The Top 14 is a tougher competition than the URC at the moment, although that is changing with the emergence of three good South African sides. But the way Leinster were able to send the youngsters to South Africa recently and keep the first team at home gave them a huge advantage.
We saw an example of how this played out on the pitch in the 70th minute when Antoine Dupont went down with cramp and when you looked at the minutes played this season going into the match he was at nearly 1,600, whereas Jamison Gibson-Park was at 963.
Still, even with more rest I doubt Toulouse would have beaten Leinster. This Leinster squad is very conscious that they don’t have the European Cups they feel they have deserved over the last few seasons. They have clearly learnt from the losses to Saracens and La Rochelle.
As in Welford Road last week, Leinster started the match at a ridiculously fast pace but also with near flawless accuracy. The one error they made when Gibson-Park got blocked down as Leinster looked like scoring following an incredible 25 metre pass by Tadhg Furlong to Hugo Keenan, led to Dupont running 60 metres to score.
Leinster never blinked. They have the fastest ruck speed in the competition at just under three seconds but on Saturday it felt like they were recycling at close to one second for the rucks that they weren’t box kicking from.
Leinster’s organisation in attack was a joy to watch and with rumours in the English press that Stuart Lancaster is on the shortlist to replace Eddie Jones (rumoured to be lined up by Racing 92) after the World up, Saturday was another ringing endorsement for him.
The way Leinster’s forwards carry the ball square to the line with multiple options inside, outside and behind is close to tactical and technical perfection. Sexton is usually the man behind and then he has two more forwards running close and tight off his shoulder with another back out behind them. Everyone is a viable option.
Defences usually have one weak spot on every phase and Leinster play the killer pass more often and better than most. This is where they make up for the slight lack of power because they are running at the branches (arms) of the tree rather than the tree trunk (body).
Leinster won the kicking battle comfortably and every time Toulouse tried to shore up what was a porous front line of defence, by putting a player from the backfield forward, Leinster spotted that and kicked and chased like it was the most important chase of their lives.
They often trapped Toulouse close to their own line or restarted with an attacking lineout.
In the second half against the wind they used shorter contestable kicks or kick passes to their wings, which were also very successful.
Toulouse had dominance at scrum time, which was magnified by the loss of Furlong in the 16th minute. Because Leinster’s handling was so accurate they didn’t concede many knock-ons or give Toulouse many scrums.
The penalties Toulouse did win at the scrum were invariably kicked up the line where James Ryan and Ross Molony were excellent at winning it back from the throw.
Sexton was brilliant and deserved to be named the man of the match, but in a team with so many superstars I thought Molony was outstanding.
I was talking to Leo Cullen about him recently and he said he is a ‘glue’ player. He is someone who makes the team play better.
On Saturday he brought that glue to the big stage and was incredible. He has been close to a cap before but missed out. A big performance in Marseille could get him one in New Zealand.
Racing and La Rochelle meet this afternoon for the right to play Leinster in that final. Leinster will be the favourites and look on track for a fifth star.