Leinster – Champions Once More
Leinster secured there 4th European Crown yesterday after a titanic struggle with Munster’s conquers Racing 92. Isa Nacewa who will retire at the end of the season kicked two huge penalties in the last 10 minutes to help in securing another European crown for Ireland and a 4th European Cup for Leinster.
Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster have had this Leinster side playing a different type of rugby than the rest of Europe this year and the return of Robbie Henshaw has also been crucial add to that the way Jamison Gibson Park has come into the side in the Semi Final and also in the second half yesterday.
James Lowe will know he will get his chance next year and will hopefully be able to add to fine displays in the Champions Cup next year. His focus will now be on a Pro 14 Semi Final next weekend in Dublin.
Back to yesterday, Leinster would have seen the way that Munster struggle to break to a really solid Racing defence and on a few occasions yesterday it looked as if they were going to break through thanks to the hard running of Henshaw and Ringrose , while up front James Ryan and Dan Leavy worked tirelessly in the pursuit of glory.
Although Jonathan Sexton didn’t have a vintage game with the placed boot but was solid and extremely effective with the ball in hand. This winning display was built on hard work and a strong set piece with one or two moments of brilliance.
Racing will know that this game came down to one or two key moments in the 2nd half where there scrum half Teddy Iribaren made one fatal mistake and the Leinster breakdown work managed to win the ball back and get the ball back down the field and from that they got the first of two late penalties.
Racing 92 for their part will be bitterly disappointed that there second Final appearance since 2016 has ended in defeat. Donnacha Ryan worked hard to try and disrupt the Leinster ball at line out time and he managed to disrupt only a small number of Leinster line outs. Racing came to play with a very aggressive line speed and with Vakatawa and Chavancy leading the line in defence.
This game was not for the purist that particular line will be used over the next few days to describe the way this game was played. Leinster won’t be one bit upset by the way they played yesterday and will now be able to point to the fact that they have now joined Toulouse on 4 European wins in the history of the competition.
The work that Leinster have put in at academy level was defiantly laid bare with the Leinster A team involved in the British and Irish Cup Final although they were beaten 22-7 in that game , a number of those players will be blooded next year.
Sean O Brien has missed a large part of this year , Jamie Heaslip retired but players like Dan Leavy , Jack Conan , Max Deegan have made up for those losses. Girvan Dempsey and Noel Mc Namara have done Trojan work with the academy and then all those players that were introduced like Larmour , Deegan this season took full advantage and have there just rewards with a European triumph and maybe a Pro 14 Final in Dublin to come although Munster face them in the Pro 14 Semi Final next weekend.
Huge congratulations to all involved with Leinster Rugby , yesterday was a huge fill up for all in Irish Rugby. Saracens have dominated in recent years, Toulon before that and finally after 6 years an Irish team has climbed back to the summit of European Club Rugby.
Cian Mc Gibney