O'Driscoll heralds a Leinster 'dynasty' as cup final records fall
Leinster 42 Ulster 14: Irish province win their third Heineken Cup final in four years by blowing away battling Ulster with five-try display of power, pace and precision
With a record score and winning margin, Leinster outstripped any achievement by the four-times winners Toulouse, or by Leicester or Wasps. By winning the Heineken Cup for a third time in four years, the Irish province have painted the continent their own special shade of blue.
Ulster battled gamely but were outclassed in this first all-Irish final, which had notable southern hemisphere influences. Murrayfield in 2009, Cardiff in 2011 and now Twickenham have been the playgrounds of Brian O'Driscoll and friends, and guess what? Next year's final will be on home turf in Dublin.
"After we'd won one [against Leicester three years ago] we talked about not being satisfied with that and creating something of a dynasty to be remembered by," said O'Driscoll, the great centre and superb sidekick to the captain, Leo Cullen. "It has been a huge effort by the whole squad."
In a first half bookended by Ulster's talismanic kicker, Ruan Pienaar, landing two penalties – the second in added time was a monstrous effort of around 60 metres – Leinster lacked any of the slackness that had left them 19 points down to Northampton in last season's final. This time they had two tries converted by Jonathan Sexton, each of a classic counterattacking nature, and led 14-6.
Pedrie Wannenburg, who along with Pienaar, Stefan Terblanche and the captain, Johann Muller, had formed a Springbok core to Ulster's attempt to win a second European title, looked to have held Leinster at bay but there was a ruck turnover and Leinster's attack did the rest. Rob Kearney ran an unexpected line to shake off Wannenburg and the South African No 8 also allowed the scorer, Sean O'Brien, past him on the short side of a ruck.
The second try came from ultra-efficient execution direct from Leinster's New Zealander coaches Joe Schmidt, Jono Gibbes and Greg Feek. The ball popped out on Leinster's side of a wheeling scrum, on Ulster's put-in, Sexton took contact and then O'Driscoll knifed from out to in to commit tacklers before slipping a soft back-handed pass to O'Brien. The openside galloped into the 22 and after a spot of recycling the loosehead prop, Cian Healy, battered past Darren Cave and Andrew Trimble.
The heart of the maelstrom, in cacophonous noise from a record Heineken Cup final crowd, was occupied by Leinster's mid-season loan signing, Brad Thorn. The All Black moved patiently, rucking and mauling, or stood impassive as an Easter Island statue as his pack formed around him. Uniquely, he has now won World Cup, Super Rugby and Heineken Cup – and he and Leinster could add the RaboDirect Pro 12 next Saturday against the Ospreys.
Ulster had gone close to a try through Terblanche; Leinster could say the same for Eoin Reddan and Isa Nacewa. The principal difference was that Ulster's defence was more than matched by Leinster's, save for one second-half lapse. Leinster did not over-commit to the tackle, Nacewa and friends held the outside channels and always there was the expert jackal O'Driscoll, behaving like an extra back rower.
The red-hand gang could not look to their 20-year-old fly-half for steady navigation. Poor Paddy Jackson clumped a drop-goal wide from 15 metres out late in the first half and kicked out on the full when the ball had been carried back into the 22 after the interval. Leinster drove, Ulster collapsed the maul and the referee, Nigel Owens, awarded a penalty try converted by Sexton for 21-6.
Jackson was withdrawn in favour of Ian Humphreys and Pienaar collected his third penalty for a high tackle by O'Brien on Trimble.
Not long later Ulster had a morale-boosting try. They went left from a midfield ruck and an overhead pass from the centre Paddy Wallace allowed the lock Dan Touhy to score at the corner. But both teams must have known that was only a blip. There had been a penalty by Sexton for 24-9 on 51 minutes and two more Sexton kicks made it 30-14. The last came when Terblanche was extremely lucky to be shown only yellow when he tipped Sean Cronin in midair.
While one Bok hung his head, another scored Leinster's fourth try. Ulster's defence was out of shape as the replacement prop Heinke van der Merwe thundered clear for Leinster to go past Leicester's 34 points in 2001. Cronin's score, converted by McFadden, eclipsed Brive's 19-point margin in 1997 and set a third final record: five tries beating Brive's four.
Leinster R Kearney (D Kearney, 72); F McFadden, B O'Driscoll (D Kearney, 67-72), G D'Arcy, I Nacewa; J Sexton (I Madigan, 73), E Reddan (J Cooney, 73); C Healy (H van der Merwe, 61), R Strauss (S Cronin, 67), M Ross (N White, 69), L Cullen (capt; D Toner, 57), B Thorn, K McLaughlin (S Jennings, 61), J Heaslip, S O'Brien.
Ulster S Terblanche; A Trimble, D Cave (A D'Arcy, 77), P Wallace, C Gilroy; P Jackson (I Humphreys, 46; P Marshall, 69), R Pienaar; T Court (P McAllister, 74), R Best (N Brady, 77), J Afoa (D Fitzpatrick, 73), J Muller (capt), D Tuohy (L Stevenson, 77), S Ferris, P Wannenburg, C Henry (W Faloon, 67).
Referee N Owens (Wales).
Tries: O'Brien, Healy, Penalty, Van der Merwe, Cronin
Cons: Sexton 3, McFadden
Pens: Sexton 3
Pens: Pienaar 3
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