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Byrne steps in for Sexton as Leinster impress

Byrne steps in for Sexton as Leinster impress

Ross Byrne made his debut in the autumn in Chicago against Italy (inpho)

Less than 24 hours after Joey Carbery’s Munster masterclass, Ross Byrne reminded Joe Schmidt of his own fly-half credentials.

With Jonathan Sexton ruled out with a knee injury, Byrne stepped in at No.10 for Leinster and did a near-perfect impression of his teammate for club and country as the province downed Toulouse 29-13 in the European Champions Cup at the RDS.

The victory means the boys in blue retake pole position in Pool 1 and they laid down a real marker for the 2019 Championship against an in-form Toulouse side that had seven players named in France’s Guinness Six Nations squad earlier this month.

Byrne – who made his Ireland debut in the autumn against Italy after being an unused replacement during the summer tour to Australia – was called up for Sexton this week at fly-half.

And with Leinster also missing the likes of Robbie Henshaw, Devin Toner and Rob Kearney, Toulouse arrived unbeaten in Europe this season and full of confidence.

But Jack Conan’s first-half try put the hosts in control and they turned on the style in the second half.

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Byrne produced a stunning cross-field kick that was collected and expertly finished by Dave Kearney for Leinster’s second.

Then it was the turn of hooker Sean Cronin – who now has four tries in Europe this season in only five games – to go over from close range.

And Ross’ namesake Adam capped off the scoring late on with a run-in down the right – the fly-half chipping in seven points from the tee in the vital victory.

Meanwhile in Montpellier, new France call-up Paul Willemse celebrated his selection with a try in their comfortable 45-8 win over Newcastle Falcons.

Willemse was one of five uncapped players called up by Les Bleus boss Jacques Brunel on Wednesday.

And the powerful forward crossed in the second half as Montpellier, ably skippered by another French call-up in Louis Picamoles, cruised home to keep their knockout hopes alive.