| 7.9°C Dublin

Leinster Lethal

Close

17 May 2013; Rob Kearney, Leinster, goes over to score his side's third try despite the attention of Jérôme Porical, Stade Francais.

17 May 2013; Rob Kearney, Leinster, goes over to score his side's third try despite the attention of Jérôme Porical, Stade Francais.

17 May 2013; Rob Kearney, Leinster, goes over to score his side's third try despite the attention of Jérôme Porical, Stade Francais.

Leinster became the first club to win four European trophies in five seasons.

They had to be at their best to repel a well-prepared, well-rested and well-motivated Sergio Parisse-led Stade Francais 34-13 in the Amlin Challenge Cup final at The RDS last night.

The Irish province came into this as three-time, still reigning Heineken Cup champions with a pedigree built on longevity and delivery. They expected.

Stade came within one point of a first European trophy in this competition, losing out controversially to Harlequins in 2011. The English club went onwards and upwards.

The Parisians went nowhere. This has been their constant bedfellow, the promise of everything, the pink-shaded attire mirroring their penchant for style over substance.

'The Boys in Blue' were true to their tradition from the off, moving the ball from deep, Isa Nacewa's grubber causing Stade to scramble.

The next time they came from Rhys Ruddock's lineout, Nacewa completely filleting the first line of defence. Out-half Jonathan Sexton was there in support and drew the last man for Ian Madigan to stroll home alone for Sexton to convert under the posts in the fifth minute.

Stade found encouragement at the scrum where they twisted Leinster backwards. Centre Geoffrey Doumayrou tested Fergus McFadden for speed on the outside.

Scrum-half Julien Dupuy's inside flick put fly-half Jules Plisson within one double-tackle by Nacewa and Sexton of the perfect riposte.

The French came to play in the same way they did at Bath in the quarter-final. Half-backs Dupuy and Plisson were orchestrating nice patterns and the scrum was a Leinster problem to be solved.

Mike Ross did not look himself from a heavy knock. Stade churned out a penalty and an attacking lineout to lock Scott Lavalla which needed flanker Sean O'Brien to save a certain try by Paul Williams.

The French were looking like Glasgow in disguise, moving the ball out of contact and going to the extremities for space and yardage.

They were well in the game. Suddenly, they were 14 points down. Scrum-half Isaac Boss's kick from a ruck made it a one-on-one contest between Dupuy and Andrew Conway in the air.

The Leinster wing soared majestically to collect the ball for hooker Sean Cronin to provide the extra pair of hands for a second try. Sexton converted.

 

SCUFFLE

Lock Devin Toner put his shoulder into Plisson. Cronin and hooker Laurent Sempere scuffled off the ball. McFadden hammered into Doumayrou.

For once, Sergio Parisse was off target with a pass, McFadden skittling Jerome Porical and somehow recovering the ball only for Toner to hold on too long on the floor. Full-back Porical made it 14-3 from the left in the 26th minute.

Nacewa claimed Sexton's restart to give Leinster a foothold. It was all the impetus they needed. Sexton's stupendous cross-field ball was taken on the run by Nacewa.

When he was taken down by Hugo Bonneval, Rob Kearney was there to leap into the end zone. Sexton converted from the touchline.

Leinster have rarely been as clinical. They had to be. Parisse almost got through and away from Madigan's brave front-on tackle. But, Porical posted a penalty to make it 21-6 on half-time.

Former Munster utility back Paul Warwick replaced Dupuy at scrum-half in a surprising move that preceded a period of error-strewn action caused by pressure and desperation by Stade to make an immediate impact.

Coach Joe Schmidt sent Cian Healy and Richardt Strauss into the trenches for Jack McGrath and Cronin just before Sexton landed three for 24-6 in the 53rd minute.

The cracks began to appear for the French. They just couldn't stop making the mistakes that held them back. Even the scrum caved in under an explosive charge from Cian Healy on tight-head Rabah Slimani. Sexton whacked a penalty from 45 metres.

A lightning raid down the left by Stade was good for a gain of 50m and wing Jeremy Sinzelle popped up on the shoulder of Hugo Bonneval to finish over the top of Conway. Plisson converted expertly for 27-13.

Sean O'Brien had already limped off. McFadden was carried off in what looked like a worrying moment in terms of the PRO12 League final next Saturday.

Stade were not done. Replace-ment Shane Jennings showed legs of old to turn defence into attack.

Kearney looked to have sealed it when blazing around the outside only for touch judge Ian Davies to put his flag up for a foot-in-touch. It was a mighty close call, especially given Davies' poor position.

It would have been the cherry on top of a powerful performance from Kearney. Referee Nigel Owens was on hand to see Healy stretch for the line to close it out in the 79th minute.

Leinster. Amlin Challenge Cup champions. For the first time.


Privacy