Category: Archive

Leinster crowned European champs after dramatic win over Leicester

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Self-belief, will, sheer determination and a superhuman performance by Rocky Elsom drove them to a 19-16 win to cap an historic season which has seen all of Europe’s major rugby silverware end up in the Ireland trophy cabinet.
This ferocious contest was in the balance until Jonathan Sexton’s very last joyous punt into the stands. It swung this way and that, more nerve-wracking than dramatic, before Leinster finally got a grip in the last quarter. And after so much heartache, and so much criticism, once they had a hand on the cup, the “ladyboys” as they had been dubbed by former Ireland international, Neil Francis, refused to let go.
In Felipe Contepomi’s absence, it was the impressive Sexton who landed the all-important penalty 10 minutes from the end. And if the kick struggled to sneak in at the right-hand upright – perhaps an appropriate symbol of Leinster’s seasons of toil in this competition – who cared?
An unlike at Croke Park where Elsom faded somewhat into the background after a scorching first-half, this time, he was still firing on all cylinders as a visibly jaded Leicester fought desperately for the score that would bring them level.
While this triumph was undoubtedly overdue, it was still worth the wait for several of the province’s leading players such as Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Shane Horgan, Bernard Jackman and Malcolm O’Kelly who might not get another shot at European glory. The prospect of going back to the drawing board yet again might have been too much to bear.
“This is the one that I always wanted,” said O’Driscoll who captained Ireland to the Six Nations Grand Slam earlier in the year. “Having gone for 10 years at this, and been unsuccessful, it just means so much to win.”
Despite dominating much of the first half with drop goal and a penalty by Sexton and another drop goal from O’Driscoll, Leinster were still trailing 13-9 at the interval, and early in the second half, they were down 16-9. But they hit back with a try by Jamie Heaslip, and then Sexton landed the decisive penalty to secure the province’s first ever European Cup.
Unfortunately, it appears likely that the outstanding Elsom is now returning to Australia for contractual reasons after just one season in Ireland. “We couldn’t have won the cup without Rocky Elsom. He’s a remarkable player,” added O’Driscoll, who is now in South Africa with the Lions along with the Leinster trio of Luke Fitzgerald, Rob Kearney and Heaslip. “I’d say he’s probably the best player I’ve ever played with and I’ve played with some very good players.”
Still, with the Six Nations, the Grand Slam, the Celtic League and now the European Cup all on Irish sideboards, it’s been one great season.

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