Leinster kings of Europe once again - Leinster 42 Ulster 14
EUROPEAN cup kings Leinster are fast on their way to becoming the rugby equivalent of the 1950s Real Madrid side, after securing a third Heineken Cup in just four seasons.
Many had thought beforehand that the hard as nails Ulster pack and the tactical and place kicking genius of Ruan Pienaar would cause Joe Schmidt’s men serious problems.
But they were blown away as Leinster produced a majestic performance on a great day for Irish rugby as records tumbled at Twickenham.
A record final crowd of 81,744 – both sets of magnificent fans were a credit to the game – saw Leinster rack up the biggest Heineken Cup final winning margin in its 16-year history, easily eclipsing Brive’s 19-point 28-9 demolition of Leicester at Cardiff in 1997.
Saturday’s epic showdown also kept the statisticians busy as fans witnessed the most points scored by one side in a final, the most tries and Leinster became the first side to go through a tournament season unbeaten.
The Dublin-based side’s sublime performance was largely inspired by their runaway truck of an openside Sean O’Brien who scored the first of their five tries after just 13 minutes.
The flanker was European player of the year last season but his form has deserted him the season.
Still he kept the best till last, the towering man of the match as Leinster flexed their muscles ahead of Sunday’s PRO12 final showdown with the Ospreys at the RDS where they will look to secure the double.
Ulster had started very well and took the lead after eight minutes through a Pienaar penalty.
They threatened the opposition’s lines early on but the Ulstermen lacked the killer instinct that so sets Leinster apart from the rest.
When they had chances, they took them with Jonny Sexton running the show like the accomplished pro he is.
It was in stark contrast to his counterpart Paddy Jackson, the poor 20-year-old having an absolute nightmare at outside half.
Tactically, Ulster were rather inept and chose to become engaged in an open game that goes against their grain.
On a dry day, perfect for running rugby, they chose to take up the invitation of joining a free flowing party instead of crashing it and turning it into a war of attrition and taking Leinster on up front.
With backs of the calibre of the imperious Brian O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney, Gordon D’Arcy and Isa Nacewa, it was a no-brainer when it came to a gameplan, especially when your pack is loaded with tough South Africans.
In a game of impressive intensity, loosehead prop Cian Healy crashed over for a converted try in the 32nd minute after O’Brien had torn through the Ulster defence.
Pienaar’s penalty on the stroke of half-time brought the score back to 14-6 but the writing was on the wall for Ulster.
A penalty try in the 45th minute for pulling down a maul ended the game as a contest but Ulster weren’t about to run up the white flag.
They kicked a penalty four minutes later to claw the score back to 21-9 only for Sexton to cancel it out in the 52nd minute.
Lock Dan Tuohy’s unconverted try in the 61st minute gave them hope but it was as good as it got for them as Leinster finished with an impressive ruthlessness.
It must have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Ulstermen to see replacement loosehead Heinke Van der Merwe and hooker Sean Cronin scamper home late on as Leinster ran away with the show, becoming only the second side to record back to back Heineken Cup triumphs to emulate Leicester i n2001 and 2002.
Leinster: R Kearney, F McFadden, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, I Nacewa, J Sexton (I Madigan 74), E Reddan (J Cooney 74); C Healy (H Van der Merwe 62), R Strauss (S Cronin 67), M Ross (N White 69), L Cullen (capt) (D Toner 58), B Thorn, K McLaughlin (S Jennings 62), S O’Brien, J Heaslip.
Scorers: Tries – S O’Brien, C Healy, Penalty, H Van der Merwe, S Cronin, Conversions – J Sexton (3), F McFadden, Penalties – Sexton (3).
Ulster: S Terblanche, A Trimble, D Cave (A D’Arcy 77), P Wallace, C Gilroy, P Jackson (I Humphreys 46/ P Marshall 70), R Pienaar; T Court (P McAllister 75), R Best, J Afoa (D Fitzpatrick 74, J Muller (capt), D Tuohy (L Stevenson 77), S Ferris, C Henry (W Faloon 67), P Wannenburg.
Yellow card: Terblanche (73)
Scorers: Try – D Tuohy, Penatlies – R Pienaar (3).
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Argus star man: Sean O’Brien
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