Toulon dismiss Leinster to set up Euro semi against Munster
Toulon's Drew Mitchell (C) runs with the ball during the HCup quarter final rugby union match Toulon vs Leinster at the Mayol stadium on April 6, 2014 in Toulon, southern France - by Anne-Christine Poujoulat
In a scene set for a match-up between two of rugby union's greatest players in Jonny Wilkinson and Brian O'Driscoll, the English fly-half limped off injured before the half-hour and the Irish centre's attacking prowess was snuffled out by a ferocious Toulon midfield.
Toulon will now face Munster, 47-23 quarter-final winners over Toulouse, at Marseille's Stade Velodrome on April 27.
A day earlier, Saracens, 17-15 victors over Ulster, will host Clermont, 22-16 victors over Leicester, at Twickenham in the first semi-final.
In southern France, the sides were level at 6-6 at half-time after two penalties apiece by Wilkinson and Jimmy Gopperth.
But Toulon scored two second-half tries through prop Xaiver Chiocci and Australian winger Drew Mitchell, both converted by Matt Giteau, who also got two penalties, along with a long-range Delon Armitage effort.
Leinster's sole response was a third Gopperth penalty before a late Jordi Murphy try.
"We just didn't play well," said O'Driscoll, an integral part of Leinster's Cup triumphs in 2012, 2011 and 2009, but here in his final European match.
"It was 6-6 at half-time but we didn't come out and play. We made too many mistakes and too many turnovers."
Wilkinson, 34, said O'Driscoll's impending retirement was "a sad moment for the sport, but I also respect his decision as he leaves at the top".
The fly-half, who kicked England to victory over Australia in extra-time in the 2003 World Cup final, expressed hope that he could bounce back from his injury in time for the semi-final.
"I have had this hamstring problem for the past two weeks and felt it immediately when I went for that ball in the 28th minute," he said.
"I'll take it day by day and hour by hour as I would love to play Munster and also the end of the season is the most important for us."
The expensively-assembled Toulon side, which could afford to have Springbok winger Bryan Habana sitting on the bench, opened up with an ominous display of their power play, rewarded with a Wilkinson penalty after three minutes.
Leinster were in full scramble defence, full-back Rob Kearney pulling off a crucial intercept and O'Driscoll also clearing under the onslaught.
Wilkinson knocked over his second penalty on 17 minutes at the packed Felix-Mayol Stadium under clear skies and sunny conditions.
Leinster's uncapped Kiwi fly-half Gopperth pulled back a penalty with Toulon's scrum under the cosh just minutes later.
Wilkinson limped off with a heavily bandaged right leg after 27 minutes, 92-time capped Wallaby Giteau moving into 10 with Maxime Mermoz slotting into midfield.
Gopperth was on hand to fire over a second penalty to draw the scores level, Giteau going wide with a long-range effort.
Despite the summer-like weather, both sides were guilty of committing numerous handling errors in a mistake-ridden, tension-filled game.
Giteau kicked a 50-metre penalty to open the scoring in the second period after a turnover in midfield by prop Chiocci.
After a charge by Toulon's irrepressible South African hooker Craig Burden past Devin Toner, Chiocci was eventually driven over from close range for a deserved try Giteau converted.
Gopperth then missed a penalty, but nailed one a minute later after Chiocci attempted another turnover.
But Toulon's power again showed through, outstanding English No 8 Steffon Armitage charging through, Mathieu Basteraud taking it up the middle and Mitchell finishing off, Giteau again on target with the extras.
Delon Armitage then hit a surprise 52-metre penalty shortly before Leinster replacement Murphy was driven over for a try in the corner with 10 minutes to play.
Giteau had the final word with another penalty as Toulon ran out comfortable winners.