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Leinster take home European cup for first time

Latest update : 2009-05-23

By beating English side Leicester 19-6, Irish province Leinster come away from Edinburgh with their first ever European Cup, and give Irish rugby another success to toast after the country's Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this year.

AFP - Leinster won the European Cup final at the first time of asking after holding off English champions Leicester 19-16 in a thrilling clash at Murrayfield here on Saturday.

They overcame a seven point deficit early in the second-half to give Irish rugby another success to savour after Ireland's Six Nations Grand Slam earlier in the season.

Winning captain Leo Cullen said: "We've had some tough times over the last few years. There have been some disappointing days, but the hurt in the past makes the wins sweeter."

However, their victory owed much to the work at the breakdown of Wallaby blindside flanker and man-of-the-match Rocky Elsom.

Leinster were 16-9 behind when a try from Ireland No 8 Jamie Heaslip nine minutes into the second half helped draw them level.

Sustained forward pressure was rewarded when, after a surge by inspirational Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, Heaslip crossed.

Impressive fly-half Jonathan Sexton coverted and the match was all square at 16-16.

Two minutes later, fine Leinster work at the breakdown saw Leicester give away a penalty and then be marched backward a further 10 metres by Welsh referee Nigel Owens for talking back only for Sexton to miss for the first time with his worst kick of the day.

There was a worrying moment for both Leinster and the British and Irish Lions when O'Driscoll injured himself after stretching to make a kick.

But he was still able to make a break, thanks to some neat footwork, which led to Leicester replacement Matt Smith going off his feet at a ruck and giving away a penalty from 30 metres out on the left.

Sexton, under huge pressure, pulled the ball round and Leinster had a 19-16 lead heading into the final 10 minutes before surviving one last desperate surge to deny the Tigers a double.

O'Driscoll beamed: "It feels great. I've played for this team for 10 years, some of the guys for 11 or 12 years.

"I love Leinster. It was a goal to win this competition before the season started. I couldn't have asked to win this with a better bunch of guys."

Leicester, behind for most of the first half, turned round 13-9 in front after making the most of the sin-binning of Leinster prop Stan Wright, shown the yellow card for tackling Tigers outside-half Sam Vesty without the ball.

French scrum-half Julien Dupuy kicked the resulting penalty to cut Leinster's lead to 9-6 and then, with two minutes to go until half-time, the Tigers scored the first try of the match.

Dan Hipkiss burst through and found fellow centre Ayoola Erinle. He in turn released Vesty, whose well-timed pass was taken on the charge by Woods.

Leinster centre Gordon D'Arcy fell off an attempted tackle and then Woods brushed aside the challenge of full-back Isa Nacewa before scoring.

Dupuy converted and the Tigers had a four-point lead at the break.

And he extended it to seven soon afterwards when Leinster came in at the side of a ruck.

Leicester captain Geordan Murphy then received a standing ovation from both sets of fans when he went off injured.

The Tigers bidding for their third English and European double, after last week's 10-9 Premiership final win over London Irish, to set alongside their 2001 and 2002 successes, fell behind when after Jordan Crane knocked-on a clearance kick from Luke Fitzgerald, O'Driscoll dropped a goal from 22 metres.

Leicester, whose lineout was under early challenge, were soon level through the boot of French scrum-half Julien Dupuy after Leinster were penalised for not rolling away.

Sexton, who'd starred in their semi-final win over Irish rivals and reigning European champions Munster after coming on as a replacement for injured Pumas star Felipe Contepomi, was directing play with an assured kicking game.

But not even those Leinster fans chanting "Come on you Boys in Blue" could have anticipated the manner in which the stand-off gave their side the lead.

There seemed little on when Sexton fielded a clearance kick from Ireland full-back Geordan Murphy but he responded by letting fly with a superb drop-goal from fully 50 metres.

From an overthrown Leicester lineout inside the Tigers 22, both D'Arcy and O'Driscoll had a dart at the English side's try-line while Elsom's charges led to chants of "Rocky, Rocky" from Leinster fans.

But the Leicester defence held firm although they did concede a penalty for going off their feet at a ruck which allowed Sexton to extend Leinster's lead to 9-3.

Date created : 2009-05-23