Leinster conjure remarkable Heineken Cup comeback

Leinster 33 Northampton 22

Leinster conjured the greatest comeback in Heineken Cup final history to collect their second European title and leave Northampton painfully reflecting on a season without silverware.

Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton scored 28 of Leinster's points - two tries, four penalties and three conversions - after Saints led 22-6 at half-time in a remarkable Millennium Stadium contest.

Northampton appeared to be home and dry following first-half touchdowns for flanker Phil Dowson, full-back Ben Foden and captain Dylan Hartley in pursuit of England's first European crown since Wasps lifted the trophy four years ago.

Fly-half Stephen Myler added two conversions and a penalty for good measure, but Leinster delivered a calculated response as they chased a second Heineken crown in three seasons.

They moved effortlessly ahead by the hour mark, before a try from their Scotland international lock Nathan Hines sealed a spectacular success underpinned by them scoring 27 unanswered second-half points.

Northampton, beaten by Leicester in last weekend's punishing Aviva Premiership play-off at Welford Road, will wonder until this time next term how they could implode in such fashion.

Leinster though, showed them the harsh reality of life at European rugby's sharp end, with Ireland international Sexton taking command just when his team needed it most.

It was a masterful display by Leinster's playmaker, who finished two points short of equalling Diego Dominguez's Heineken record haul for Stade Francais in the 2001 final against Leicester.

But while the favourites celebrated, Northampton could only reflect on what might have been.

How Saints recover from such a setback is anyone's guess, but the harsh reality is they have seen their hopes of a domestic and European double disappear without trace inside seven days.

Both teams were unchanged from their semi-final victories over Toulouse and Perpignan, respectively, although there remained question marks surrounding talisman Brian O'Driscoll after he limped off during the Magners League play-off win against Ulster last weekend.

Northampton though, were in no mood to confirm their underdog status, and initial domination was rewarded with a try inside eight minutes.

Leinster conceded early territory, and despite Sexton's attempts to relieve the pressure, Northampton sensed there was an opportunity they had to prosper from.

And it was Dowson who pounced, crashing over from close range for a try that Myler converted as Saints enjoyed a dream start to lie 7-0 ahead without Leinster launching a meaningful attack.

Myler and Sexton then exchanged penalties as Northampton's scrum began to assert authority, although Leinster had a gilt-edged scoring chance that went begging.

Wing Shane Horgan linked superbly with flanker Sean O'Brien, creating an opening for O'Driscoll, but Foden completed a magnificent cover tackle.

And even when Saints' South African prop Brian Mujati was sin-binned for pulling back his opposite number Cian Healy off the ball, Northampton did not remotely threaten to surrender set-piece control.

Although they were temporarily reduced to seven forwards, Saints' hunger for the battle ensured Leinster remained on the back foot, lacking a way of nullifying their opponents' power.

And the punishment continued when a territory-hungry Saints pack ensured Leinster's torture continued by ensuring quick scrum ball and setting up another attack.

Myler scooted clear in midfield and, before Leinster could regroup, Northampton had enough players out wide that allowed Foden plenty of options before he claimed the try himself.

Myler again converted and, despite Sexton slotting a second penalty just before half-time, Northampton proved outstanding value for their advantage.

And they extended the lead on the stroke of half-time when Hartley powered over from close-range, handing Leinster a mountain to climb.

Leinster, 3-0 down on tries, knew they had to open the second-half scoring or face oblivion, but they came up trumps when Sexton weaved his way over on an angle and then added the extras via a ricochet off the post.

They thought they had scored again just seven minutes later when centre Gordon D'Arcy crossed Saints' line, but brilliant defensive work from wing Paul Diggin prevented the touchdown.

It proved no more than a respite though, as further Leinster pressure resulted in Sexton claiming his second try that he again converted, cutting Saints' interval lead from 16 points to two.

Sexton, who could not put a foot wrong, then kicked a 40-metre penalty to put Leinster ahead for the first time during a third quarter that had seen his team score 17 unanswered points.

Northampton were at sixes and sevens, but their misery was not complete as another Sexton penalty, followed by Hines' try that Sexton converted, left Saints in disarray at 11 points adrift with no way back.

News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower