Planet Rugby

Leinster come of age in Edinburgh

23rd May 2009 18:48

Share:

Leinster air punching

History Boys: Leinster bask in the glory of European success

They did it! European rugby's eternal bridesmaids have finally been joined in holy union with their heart's true desire: the Heineken Cup. Leinster snatched the spoils from under the noses of the Leicester Tigers with an epic 19-16 victory in Saturday's Heineken Cup Final at Murrayfield.

The world has been turned on its head since this tournament started out back in October, and the trend continued in Edinburgh with the serial champions being brought to their knees by a star-crossed side in its first ever appearance at this rarified level. How the mighty fall!

But, in truth, it was not a mighty fall. Full, unadulterated, bended-knee credit to the Tigers. Despite the gruelling end to their season they limped on, looking for the win - or at least the draw - as the last few minutes of the game trickled to their last.

Indeed, it was nip and tuck for the duration of the contest.

It stood deadlocked at 16-all before Johnny Sexton squeaked through a goal with ten minutes to run - a shot that capped a fine performance from a youngster who today became a man.

But this game was won by the Dubliners' unsung pack.

Grammatically, there's not much between Leicester and Leinster, and the big men in blue wrenched a consonant and a vowel from their illustrious opponents by playing the breakdown in a style normally - perennially - associated with the Midlanders.

In the manner of Britain's MPs, Leinster took a second home in Leicester's half. Unlike Britain's MPs, they chose to lived in it for much of the game.

With Rocky Elsom leading the charge, they tore into every ruck and maul - and into the set-piece. They stole four green line-outs in the first quarter alone.

But Leicester managed to hang on thanks to their usual composure and guile.

In fact, the Englishmen went to the break with an unfathomable 13-9 lead.

With possession and opportunities not morphing into points, it seemed that Leinster would fall foul of the trap that snared their exiled brethren in last Saturday's Guinness Premiership Final, but the real Irishman refused to go gently into that good night.

A try from Jamie Heaslip drew the score levels, and Sexton's final shot at goal punctuated all those years of hurt.

The controlled ferocity that Leinster had used to see off Munster in that semi-final was in evidence from the kick-off but some ill-disciplined play from Shane Jennings gave Leicester the first kickable penalty.

However, Julien Dupuy was off-target from 50 metres.

It was Leinster who got the first points on the board when a chip and chase from Luke Fitzgerald saw the ball spilled, eventually leading to a smart drop-goal from Brian O'Driscoll.

The Tigers immediately roared back, twice breaking the gain line before being awarded a penalty Dupuy kicked easily.

Leicester were proving more than a match for their opponents at the breakdown but fell behind again when Sexton landed a monster drop-goal from just outside his own half.

It could have been worse for the Tigers moments later but for some heroic last-ditch defending under their own posts off the back of a well-worked Leinster line-out.

Suddenly, Leicester could not get the ball and after a succession of phases from their opponents, they eventually conceded a penalty inside their own 22. Sexton converted.

Leicester were now struggling to retain possession and lost number eight Jordan Crane to injury before the half-hour.

Louis Deacon came on and that prompted an immediate upturn in the Tigers' fortunes - he stole a line-out and Leinster prop Stan Wright sin-binned for an illegal tackle on Sam Vesty. Dupuy kicked the penalty.

Leicester used all their experience to make the extra man tell two minutes before the interval.

Their most sustained spell of possession of the half eventually saw flank Ben Woods burst clear and retain enough momentum to touch down. Dupuy converted.

Leicester stretched their lead to seven points shortly after the break when Cian Healy infringed and Dupuy kicked another penalty, before Tigers captain Geordan Murphy was withdrawn, injured, for Matt Smith.

Leinster stopped the rot in superb fashion. Elsom was the spark that put together 11 phases of possession to break the will of their opponents, with Heaslip eventually stretching over. Sexton converted and it was suddenly 16-16.

Moments later in this topsy-turvy game, the fly-half had the chance to boot his side back in front with a 42-metre penalty but he scuffed his effort.

Leicester introduced Julian White for Martin Castrogiovanni and Benjamin Kayser for George Chuter in the front row, while Leinster withdrew hooker Bernard Jackman for John Fogarty, and on the hour mark, the Tigers brought on Lewis Moody for Woods.

There was a brief scare for the Lions when the talismanic O'Driscoll went down injured and, although he was soon back on his feet, he continued to look in some discomfort.

After such an intense hour, both sides began to tire, with play concentrated in the middle third of the field. Understandably, it was the men in green who bore the more pronounced wilt, and Leinster were encouraged by some uncharacteristic errors from their opponents.

When Leicester infringed at the breakdown 30 metres from goal, Sexton ended the stalemate with his second successful penalty of the afternoon.

With time running out, Leicester threw on Harry Ellis for Dupuy but to no avail as their opponents saw out a nervy final to secure their place in rugby history.

Man of the match: Felipe who? Jonathan Sexton put in a performance that will have Ireland saliviating and Ronan O'Gara fearing for his future. Meanwhile, Dan Hipkiss was at the centre of all that was good about Leicester - England's forgotten centre is back to his best. But how can we look passed the irresistible Rocky Elsom? The Australia was head and shoulders above even the great Brian O'Driscoll. The Freedom of Dublin awaits his pick-pocketing paws!

Moment of the match: The Tigers are experts at crushing all hope from opponents, and Leinster were contemplating throwing in the towel after so much good work had come to nothing. But a certain Australian refused to bow to rugby's status quo. Rocky Elsom dragged his side back into contention with a fabulous break that lead to Heaslip's try - and the spoils.

Villian of the match: Hard fought but fair - and brilliantly refereed by Nigel Owens. It is thanks to the Welshman that we do not need to tendered this ghastly gong. No award.

The scorers:

For Leicester Tigers:

Try: Woods

Con: Dupuy

Pen: Dupuy 3

For Leinster:

Try: Heaslip

Con: Sexton

Pens: Sexton 2

Drops: O'Driscoll, Sexton

Yellow card(s): Wright (Leinster) - killing the ball, 32.

The teams:

Leicester Tigers: 15 Geordan Murphy (capt), 14 Scott Hamilton, 13 Ayoola Erinle, 12 Dan Hipkiss, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Sam Vesty, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Ben Woods, 6 Craig Newby, 5 Ben Kay, 4 Tom Croft, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 George Chuter, 1 Marcos Ayerza.

Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Julian White, 18 Louis Deacon, 19 Lewis Moody, 20 Harry Ellis, 21 Matt Smith, 22 Johne Murphy.

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Chris Whitaker, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Malcolm O'Kelly, 4 Leo Cullen (capt), 3 Stan Wright, 2 Bernard Jackman, 1 Cian Healy.

Replacements: 16 John Fogarty, 17 Ronan McCormack, 18 Devin Toner, 19 Sean O'Brien, 20 Simon Keogh, 21 Rob Kearney, 22 Girvan Dempsey.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

Assistant referees: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales), Hugh Watkins (Wales)

Television match official: Iain Goodall (Scotland), Tim Hayes (Wales)

By Andy Jackson

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , October 3
Bath vs Saracens19:45
Saturday , October 4
London Irish vs Northampton15:00
Harlequins vs London Welsh15:00
Gloucester vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , October 5
Sale vs Wasps14:00
Newcastle vs Exeter15:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , October 4
South Africa vs New Zealand16:05
Argentina vs Australia23:40
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 3
Connacht vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Ulster vs Edinburgh19:35
Zebre vs Ospreys19:35
Saturday , October 4
Leinster vs Munster18:30
Sunday , October 5
Benetton Treviso vs Glasgow14:00
Scarlets vs Newport Gwent D'gons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , October 3
Oyonnax vs Toulon20:45
Saturday , October 4
Bordeaux-Begles vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Brive18:30
Bayonne vs Montpellier18:30
La Rochelle vs Lyon18:30
Castres vs Grenoble18:30
Toulouse vs Stade Francais20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , October 3
Pumas vs Blue Bulls15:00
Sharks vs Lions19:10
Saturday , October 4
Cheetahs vs Western Province14:00
Griquas vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 28
Wasps 35 - 18 NewcastleWasps vs Newcastle Report
Exeter 36 - 13 HarlequinsExeter vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 33 - 15 Benetton TrevisoNewport Gwent D
More Guinness PRO12 results
ITM Cup
Tasman 32 - 24 OtagoTasman vs Otago Report
Canterbury 26 - 28 SouthlandCanterbury vs Southland Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 27
Leicester 19 - 22 London IrishLeicester vs London Irish Report
Saracens 40 - 19 Sale SharksSaracens vs Sale Sharks Report
Northampton 31 - 24 BathNorthampton vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
South Africa 28 - 10 AustraliaSouth Africa vs Australia Report
Argentina 13 - 34 New ZealandArgentina vs New Zealand Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Zebre 13 - 6 UlsterZebre vs Ulster Report
Munster 14 - 19 OspreysMunster vs Ospreys Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulon 40 - 17 MontpellierToulon vs Montpellier Report
Grenoble 27 - 25 Racing Metro ParisGrenoble vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Brive 34 - 24 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 8 - 19 Clermont Auvergne
Stade Francais 43 - 10 La Rochelle
Lyon 28 - 18 Castres
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 53 - 24 Eastern Province KingsSharks vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Griquas 8 - 46 LionsGriquas vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 20 - 22 ManawatuWaikato vs Manawatu Report
North Harbour 28 - 25 Hawkes Bay
Counties Manukau 55 - 7 WellingtonCounties Manukau vs Wellington Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh 10 - 46 GloucesterLondon Welsh vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 37 - 23 Cardiff BluesLeinster vs Cardiff Blues Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens418
2Northampton416
3Bath415
4Exeter414
5Wasps411