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Leinster cruise to Challenge Cup title

17th May 2013 21:58

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Leinster Rob Kearney evades Stade Francais

Game, set, match: Rob Kearney scores number three

Leinster were crowned 2013 Amlin Challenge Cup champions on Friday after a convincing 34-13 victory over Stade Français in the final at the RDS in Dublin.

The three-time Heineken Cup champions simply never looked like losing after racing into a convincing early lead.

Despite the absence of talisman Brian O'Driscoll due to a back spasm, Leinster were still able to field four Lions in Rob Kearney, Sean O'Brien, Cian Healy and captain Jamie Heaslip.

The silverware will come as some consolation for the Irish club after they failed to defend their Heineken Cup title, meaning that for a brief time they hold both the Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cup titles for less than 24 hours.

The result also has wider implications as it means Perpignan and Connacht will play in the Heineken Cup next season while Stade Français and London Wasps will spend another term in the Challenge Cup.

Stade enjoyed large periods of possession throughout the opening 40 minutes but were unable to make the most of the chances, young fly-half Jules Plisson continuing to misfire in the absence of experienced figures such as Felipe Contepomi.

Leinster however had no such problem when it came to hitting their targets. Isa Nacewa's burst through the centre of the Stade defence opened the scoring after four minutes, passing inside to Jonathan Sexton and onto Ian Madigan for the game's opening try.

Stade toiled to make their mark with a try of their own thanks to strong carrying from the likes of Rabah Slimani, Gerhard Mostert and the exceptional Sergio Parisse, but it was to no avail as Paul Williams was narrowly held up short of the line.

Leinster instead romping upfield and notching up their second five-pointer thanks to Sean Cronin.

The Ireland hooker pounced after Issac Boss' box kick was gathered by Andrew Conway, the winger offloading for Cronin to run in under the posts.

With a third try then slamming the nail apparently into Stade's coffin, Leinster were rampant in front of an unsurprisingly partisan home crowd.

Sexton would have ensured Warren Gatland looked on with a smile as his pinpoint cross-field kick was collected by Nacewa, the departing cult hero offloading to Rob Kearney who dove into the corner.

With Leinster ahead 21-0, Jerome Porical's penalty before half-time gave Stade the slimmest of lifelines at the interval.

Two penalties from Sexton after the break countered a further three points from Porical to leave Leinster comfortably in front, before Jérémy Sinzelle - Stade's best threat along with Hugo Bonneval - sealed a consolation score added some respectability to the proceedings.

Leinster rightly however had the final say - a substitute Lion in Healy burrowing over for the fourth try that left Leinster 34-13 ahead, sealing their fourth European title in five years.

With the careers of coach Joe Schmidt, Sexton and Nacewa coming to an end, it was fitting the two players lifted the trophy facing the rest of their squad.

The Schmidt era will go down as one of great success, but one more trophy awaits - a RaboDirect Pro12 title decider against Ulster next weekend.

The scorers:

For Leinster:
Tries: Madigan, Cronin, R Kearney, Healy
Cons: Sexton 4
Pens: Sexton 2

For Stade Français:
Try: Sinzelle
Con: Plisson
Pens: Porical 2

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Fergus McFadden, 12 Ian Madigan, 11 Isa Nacewa, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Leo Cullen, 20 Shane Jennings, 21 John Cooney, 22 Andrew Goodman, 23 David Kearney.

Stade Français: 15 Jerome Porical, 14 Jérémy Sinzelle, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Paul Williams, 11 Hugo Bonneval, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Sergio Parisse , 7 Pierre Rabadan, 6 David Lyons, 5 Scott Lavalla, 4 Gerhard Mostert, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Laurent Sempere, 1 Aled de Malmanche.
Replacements: 16 Remi Bonfils, 17 Stanley Wright, 18 Jérémy Becasseau, 19 Anton van Zyl, 20 Lei Tomiki, 21 Waisea Nayacalevu, 22 Julien Arias, 23 Paul Warwick.

Venue: RDS, Dublin
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wal)
Assistant referees: Leighton Hodges (Wal), Ian Davies (Wal)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wal)
Citing Commissioner: Maurizio Vancini (Ita)

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1Leinster622
2Northampton617
3Castres69
4Ospreys65