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
International Match
Saturday , November 1
Barbarians vs Australia14:30
USA vs New Zealand20:50
More International Match fixtures
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 26
Clermont Auvergne vs Sale SharksClermont Auvergne vs Sale Sharks Preview
Castres vs LeinsterCastres vs Leinster Preview
Wasps vs HarlequinsWasps vs Harlequins Preview
Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 92Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 92 Preview
More European Rugby Champions Cup fixtures
LV= Cup
Saturday , November 1
Sale Sharks vs Wasps14:00
Exeter vs Gloucester15:00
Bath vs London Welsh15:00
London Irish vs Leicester15:00
Northampton vs Newcastle16:00
More LV= Cup fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 31
Leinster vs Edinburgh19:35
Ospreys vs Connacht19:35
Glasgow vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Saturday , November 1
Cardiff Blues vs Munster17:15
Scarlets vs Zebre18:00
Ulster vs Newport Gwent D'gons19:35
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 1
Lyon vs Toulouse14:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Oyonnax18:30
La Rochelle vs Montpellier18:30
Brive vs Castres18:30
Stade Francais vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Bayonne vs Clermont Auvergne20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Saturday , October 25
Ulster 13 - 23 ToulonUlster vs Toulon Report
Bath 19 - 21 ToulouseBath vs Toulouse Report
Montpellier 13 - 15 GlasgowMontpellier vs Glasgow Report
Northampton 34 - 6 OspreysNorthampton vs Ospreys Report
Scarlets 15 - 3 LeicesterScarlets vs Leicester Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Rovigo 18 - 33 Cardiff Blues
Oyonnax 15 - 25 Gloucester
Exeter 33 - 13 Connacht
Bucuresti 9 - 13 Stade Francais
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Currie Cup
Western Province 19 - 16 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Taranaki 36 - 32 TasmanTaranaki vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 24
Munster 14 - 3 SaracensMunster vs Saracens Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Grenoble 15 - 25 London Irish
La Rochelle 25 - 13 Bayonne
Newport Gwent D'gons 26 - 30 Newcastle
Brive 21 - 26 Zebre
Edinburgh 25 - 17 LOU Rugby
Thursday , October 23
London Welsh 20 - 52 Bordeaux-BeglesLondon Welsh vs Bordeaux-Begles Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 19
Ospreys 42 - 7 Benetton TrevisoOspreys vs Benetton Treviso Report
Toulouse 30 - 23 MontpellierToulouse vs Montpellier Report
Toulon 28 - 18 ScarletsToulon vs Scarlets Report
Leinster 25 - 20 WaspsLeinster vs Wasps Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
London Irish 70 - 14 RovigoLondon Irish vs Rovigo Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
International Match
Saturday , October 18
Australia 28 - 29 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
More International Match results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sale Sharks 26 - 27 MunsterSale Sharks vs Munster Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton625
2Saracens622
3Exeter620
4Bath620
5Wasps615