Leinster thumped title holders Munster 25-6 in an all-Irish semi to reach their first Heineken Cup final. Brian O'Driscoll's teammates will play on May 23 against the winners of Sunday's fixture between Cardiff and two-time champions Leicester.
AFP - Leinster upset the odds to beat defending champions Munster and win their all Ireland European Cup semi-final 25-6 at Croke Park here on Saturday, in front of a club world record crowd of 82,208.
Talismanic Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll set the seal on Leinster's victory with a 70-metre interception try 20 minutes from time as his side reached their first European Cup final where they will now face the winners of Sunday's match between Cardiff and Leicester on May 23 in Edinburgh.
But this victory was built on an immense forward display, which saw Leinster, often branded a 'fancy dan' team with gifted backs but lacking punch up front, outmuscle their opponents' much-vaunted pack.
Tries either side of half-time from Gordon D'Arcy and fellow Ireland international Luke Fitzgerald had put Leinster in a strong position before O'Driscoll, who earlier this season led Ireland to the Six Nations Grand Slam, left himself on course for a memorable double.
Overlooked for the captaincy of the British and Irish Lions upcoming tour of South Africa in favour of Munster skipper Paul O'Connell, O'Driscoll, was also at the heart of a superb defensive effort which denied their opponents a try after several trademark mauling surges by the men in red shirts.
But although O'Driscoll was named man-of-the-match, the centre said the award belonged to the pack.
"It was a little embarrassing. It was hard to pick one of the eight of them so I'll accept it on behalf of them," O'Driscoll told Sky Sports. "They were immense and set the platform for us to get our tries."
Leinster, beaten by Munster in the 2006 European Cup semi-final, had lost twice to their arch-rivals this season and O'Driscoll, amongst the ranks in a team captained by Leo Cullen, said: "We really felt as we though owed them one.
"People had questioned our integrity and our pride by questioning our passion but we produced a big, passionate performance today to try to quieten those detractors a little."
O'Connell had no complaints about the result, saying: "We were pretty much in second place in all facets of the game."
Leinster overcame the early loss through injury of Argentina playmaker Felipe Contepomi to produce the two best moves of the match.
Contepomi, well off target with an early penalty, gave Leinster the lead after some bruising early exchanges with a well-struck 16th minute drop-goal.
But soon afterwards the title holders were level.
Leinster's tactic of trying to rough-up Ireland's Ronan O'Gara backfired when prop Cian Healy was sent to the sin-bin for a late challenge on the outside-half by Welsh referee Nigel Owens.
O'Gara duly made it 3-3 from the resulting penalty.
Ireland international Shane Horgan then cleverly created space for impressive Australian flanker Rocky Elsom to run onto Contepomi's short pass and drive deep into Munster territory to set up a penalty which was kicked by replacement outside-half Jonathan Sexton after Contepomi limped off injured.
Leinster opened up a significant gap just after the half hour mark when a superb running line from Isa Nacewa, released by O'Driscoll, burst through the Munster defence.
His floated pass found D'Arcy who just did enough despite a tackle from opposing centre Keith Earls, chosen ahead of him for the Lions tour, to get over the line for a superb try.
Sexton missed the difficult conversion and O'Gara's second penalty cut Leinster's lead to 11-6 at the break.
But far from faltering, Leinster went further ahead in the 44th minute when O'Driscoll and Horgan combine to release Ireland wing Fitzgerald, who sidestepped Paul Warwick, for an incisive try in the corner.
Sexton converted and Leinster were 18-6 in front.
Munster were roared on by their ever loyal fans but Dublin-based Leinster were not overawed in their home city and produced a series of superb turnovers to ensure their arch-rivals could not even manage a consolation try.
Date created : 2009-05-02