Leinster came from 16 points down to claim a superb 33-22 victory over Northampton in the Heineken Cup Final in Cardiff on Saturday.
Leinster came from 16 points down to claim a 33-22 win over Northampton in the Heineken Cup Final on Saturday.
The title is their second in three seasons as a virtuoso two-try performance from Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton led them to European glory.
Northampton had come out of the blocks firing on all cylinders and fully deserved their early lead through tries from Phil Dowson and Ben Foden. But Leinster have been in these surroundings before and promptly switched to a much wider gameplan that subsequently paid off in droves.
Sexton was the architect, scoring 28 in all, as his side clawed their way in front after a quarter of the second-half. Saints didn't know which way to turn.
That last statement would have been hard to believe after witnessing the first 40 minutes at a packed Millennium Stadium. Northampton were mixing their play, utilising their big men like Soane Tonga'uiha and Roger Wilson to the maximum.
But it was Wilson's back-row colleagues who created the first try as Calum Clark offloaded to a scoring Dowson. Stephen Myler added the extras in an early sign of intent from Saints.
Sexton and Myler then traded penalties before Ben Foden scored on 31 minutes, despite Saints being a man down with tighthead prop Brian Mujati in the sin-bin. Deja vu then occurred with another three points apiece before the break as the English went in at 6-22.
Leinster had to show up and how they did.
Outside centre Brian O'Driscoll grew more and more into the game and following a long passage of Irish possession, Sexton crossed for a converted score off the upright.
Joe Schmidt's side seemed to be on a roll and when Gordon D'Arcy was denied on 51 minutes, one sensed they were far from finished attacking. And so it probed as only two minutes later Sexton claimed Jamie Heaslip's offload to go over for his try brace.
Sexton then added a penalty and Leinster were in front, with Northampton looking a shadow of the side that had started so brightly. It got worse for them too when Dowson was shown a yellow card under pressure which led to another six points from the international ten.
Northampton did their utmost to claw their way back to within touching distance but their efforts were fruitless as Leinster claimed the European title in what was a cracking game.
Man-of-the-match: It has to be Jonathan Sexton. Two tries, 28 points, enough said.
Tries: Sexton 2, Hines
Con: Sexton 3
Pen: Sexton 4
Tries: Dowson, Foden, Hartley
Con: Myler 2
Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Leo Cullen (capt), 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Jason Harris-Wright, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Stan Wright, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Shane Jennings, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Fergus McFadden.
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jon Clarke, 12 James Downey, 11 Paul Diggin, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley (capt), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Mark Sorenson, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Stuart Commins, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Joe Ansbro.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Jerome Garces (France), Pascal Gauzere (France)
Television match official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)