Leinster late-show stuns Saints

2011-05-21 20:06

Cardiff - Jonathan Sexton inspired Leinster to the greatest comeback ever in a European Cup final as they beat Northampton 33-22 here at the Millennium Stadium here on Saturday.

The Irish province were 22-6 down at half-time but, with outside-half Sexton to the fore, they stunned a Northampton side who could not manage a single score in the second half.

Ireland international Sexton scored two tries, just after the break, that knocked the stuffing out of Northampton to add to three conversions and four penalties for a personal haul of 28 points.

Leinster become the fifth side in the history of the competition to win it more than once, joining Wasps, Toulouse, Leicester and Munster.

But for 40 minutes it looked like 2000 winners Northampton would be making up the quintet.

But Sexton, a pivotal figure in Ireland’s Six Nations win over England in Dublin in March, did a similar job at club level as Leinster made it two European Cup triumphs in three years.

Leinster had clearly taken a gamble on the fitness of Brian O'Driscoll, the Ireland great included despite struggling with a knee injury all week.

Thanks to Northampton's excellent start the centre did not touch the ball for 20 minutes and when he did get a break going he was tackled by England full-back Ben Foden.

But the 118-times capped O'Driscoll made Northampton pay in the second when, in concert with Sexton, he put them to the sword.

Northampton were on the front foot in the scrum, even when prop Brian Mujati was sin-binned in the 26th minute, by which time the 2000 European Cup winners were 10-3 up.

Flanker Phil Dowson had opened the scoring in the seventh minute after being put away by Jon Clarke.

Although Mujati was off the field, Northampton added a second try through Foden, with O'Driscoll missing a vital tackle close to the line.

And when Northampton captain Dylan Hartley bundled over just before the break, the underdogs were in control.

But Leinster came out like men possessed at the start of the second half, with Sexton going over four minutes after the break and centre Gordon D'Arcy going close shortly afterwards.

D'Arcy was denied by the video referee when he was held up over the line by the desperate Northampton defence but the force was suddenly with the Irishmen.

Sexton went over for his second try and with his conversion took Leinster to within two points and now it was Northampton, beaten by Leicester in last weekend's English Premiership semi-final, who were hanging on for their lives.

Sexton's 57th minute penalty gave Leinster the lead and by then they had scored 17 unanswered points in 17 minutes since half-time and were a transformed side from the cowed team that appeared in the first half.

O'Driscoll also looked a different player from the peripheral figure in the opening period. Nathan Hines went over for Leinster's third try and Northampton had no answers.


  • ThrillerNH - 2011-05-22 13:41

    Absolutely brilliant match to watch - one of the games of the year. Anyone who thinks NH rugby is boring should watch this for what's really happening.

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