Rivals will have to rewrite rules to stop the record Leinster men

Leinster 42 Ulster 14

Twickenham

Rugby has a long and dishonourable tradition of fixing the unbroken while failing to mend the bits that are patently falling apart, so it comes as no great surprise that certain elements of the Heineken Cup fraternity – the English and the French, basically – should be pressing hard for a mutually beneficial restructuring of the sport's most captivating tournament. There is no current agreement on the precise way forward, but this much is obvious: if the clubs from Europe's two biggest union nations are serious about restoring their joint domination of the competition, they will have to find a way of stopping Leinster from playing in it.

The Dubliners broke all kinds of records in putting Ulster to the sword in front of almost 82,000 spectators at Twickenham: in securing the title for the third time in four years, an unprecedented feat in itself, they accumulated the most points, scored the most tries and established the biggest winning margin in the 17-year history of Heineken Cup finals. Having stared straight into the eyeballs of the most dangerous members of the opposition, and decided that if they posed a threat it was not of the "real and present" variety, they proceeded to have themselves a ball. It was, without doubt, the best showpiece performance since Brive ran rings round Leicester a decade and a half ago.

By excelling in the parts of the game that were not thought to be among their strengths – for instance, the loose-head prop Cian Healy completed a first-half try after setting the move in motion by helping to wheel the Ulstermen off their own scrum ball – Leinster announced themselves as a complete team. Their opponents knew in advance that they could not hope to achieve parity in Twickenham's broader acres. When it dawned on them, well before the end of the first half, that they could not match the holders in the darkened recesses either, they must have felt sick to the pits of their stomachs.

So what does the rest of Europe do about Leinster, who might lose some important individuals to retirement – the majestic Brian O'Driscoll, the inspirational Leo Cullen – over the next couple of seasons, but have put excellent youth development structures in place while somehow retaining the Eurozone-defying financial capacity to buy big from abroad? Both the English Premiership clubs and the French Top 14 sides are keen to see tougher qualification rules placed on those teams playing in the four-nation RaboDirect Pro12, but that will hurt the Italians and the Scots, both of whom have only two professional teams and are granted automatic Heineken Cup entry, a lot more than it hurts the Dubliners. In the end, there is no easy way of countering someone else's brilliance.

"Our current participation agreement is up for discussion from the start of June and we do anticipate people raising some serious questions over the tournament format," said Derek McGrath, the chief executive of the Heineken Cup's administrative body. "There has been enough chat about it so we're expecting discussions. We are of course open to ideas that would make the tournament better, but we also have to decide whether the things we talked about when putting the current system in place back in 2008 continue to be valid. I still think we need to make sure we don't stick the knife into the Scottish and Italian rugby."

Most of the knife-wielding on Saturday was done by Sean O'Brien. Time and again the Leinster flanker sliced Ulster into little pieces with ball in hand: he scored the opening try from close range after his opponents became entangled in their own knicker elastic while clearing their lines from their own 22, and contributed handsomely to Healy's score by taking a sublime oblique-angled, back-handed flick from O'Driscoll and rampaging to within five metres. He also won the hands-in-the-ruck contest, hands down. He may sail close to the wind seeking turnover treasure, but then so does Richie McCaw.

If there were odd moments when Ulster felt they might just find a fingerhold – when Ruan Pienaar sank the mother of all Twickenham penalties with the last kick of the first half; when the hard-working Paddy Wallace manufactured a try for Dan Tuohy on the hour to reduce the deficit to 10 points – it was O'Brien who did most to disabuse them of the notion. It was only fitting that after Leinster had moved clear again through the boot of Jonny Sexton and an impressive trundle to the line from Heinke van der Merwe, the man from County Carlow should have had one last say, in the shape of a scoring pass to the hooker Sean Cronin.

Cullen, the captain, had been off the field for some 20 minutes by then, resting his 34-year-old legs after another hard shift at the coalface. For the lock from Wicklow, the late rush of points was sweet indeed.

"There were times when I was almost embarrassed playing for Leinster, when I felt a lot of guilt," he said. "Times when I couldn't see how the team was going to be successful because things had become so disjointed. In 2005, we didn't even have a coach. I joined Leicester because I wanted to be at a club with a winning mentality. Now, I look around me and I feel blessed. We're breeding good quality, very competitive players and the future is bright. It's very satisfying."

Leinster have lost just five of their last 35 games at this exalted level and are the first team since the 1997ers from Brive to emerge unbeaten from a Heineken Cup campaign. It is some record, as the defeated and departing Ulster coach, Brian McLaughlin, generously acknowledged. The Belfast-based side have a deep yearning to challenge the southerners on their own terms over the next few seasons, but on this evidence there is no immediate sign of achievement keeping pace with ambition. A case of "Brits Out...Classed", you might say.

Leinster: Tries: O'Brien, Healy, penalty try, Van der Merwe, Cronin. Conversions: Sexton 3, McFadden. Penalties: Sexton 3.Ulster: Try: Tuohy. Penalties: Pienaar 3.

Leinster: R Kearney; 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), S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Ulster: S Terblanche; A Trimble, D Cave (A D'Arcy, 77), P Wallace, C Gilroy; P Jackson (I Humphreys, 45; 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, C Henry (W Faloon, 67), P Wannenburg.

Referee: N Owens (Wales).

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
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

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test