Saturday 25 November 2017

Injured BOD gets fitting farewell as Leinster retain Pro12 title

David Kelly

David Kelly

Brian O'Driscoll limped out of Leinster's triumphant farewell to the season but limped back to raise the RaboDirect Pro12 trophy aloft at the final whistle as his side clinched back-to-back league titles.

O'Driscoll's evening ended in agony after a 7th minute hamstring injury but his team-mates ensured that he wouldn't end the day empty-handed as a brace from Zane Kirchner and further tries from Shane Jennings and Gordon D'Arcy completed a sumptuous display.

Truly, there were enough signs here that Leinster can continue to cope despite the retirements of O'Driscoll and, also, second-row stalwart Leo Cullen.

The visitors, roared on by a record away support for a Scottish professional outfit, made a rip-roaring start and had the first chance when Mike Ross was offside as Rob Kearney made a hash of Peter Murchie's booming Garryowen.

Finn Russell, the young out-half who has evicted international Duncan Weir from the starting line-up, unerringly arrowed his three-pointer from the Leinster ten-metre line for a fourth minute boost.

Leinster, into a stiff breeze, spurned a shot at goal an kicked to the corner; their attack let them down and then O'Driscoll's body failed him with just seven minutes on the clock. He limped on, unavailingly, then limped off, inconsolably. Ian Madigan replaced him and his next act was to watch the impish Russell slot his second penalty via a post for a 6-0 lead.

Leinster were unnerved. After multiple phases and patient ball retention, they eventually conceived the overlap from which Zane Kirchner tidily finished Rob Kearney's deft pass. Jimmy Gopperth converted to give Leinster a 19th minute, 7-6 lead.

The home side had the chance to turn the screw but couldn't apply a repeat; Glasgow made changes of themselves and Fijian flyer Leone Nakarawa imbued his side with real conviction.

Russell slotted his third penalty to regain the lead for his side five minutes before the break.

Not for long. Springbok Zane Kirrchner, choosing he final game of the season to produce his best display in blue, delivered the final pass to Shane Jennings.

Russell kicked his fourth penalty in the frantic first-half finale, a nerveless effort from nearer halfway then the Leinster 10-metre line; 14-12 at tea for the home side.

In the broiling heat, the pace of the game didn't relent; Gopperth missed a penalty chance but Glasgow nearly scored a try through replacement scrum-half Niko Matawalu.

Then, Leinster countered from behind their own line, almost in Herbert Park; they should have converted the chance as the 19,500 crowd oohed and aahed at the exciting endeavour shown by both teams.

Leinster were awarded a scrum penalty after that magnificent passage of play; Gopperth nailed it for a 17-12 lead as the hour approached.

Nakawara then battered into Eoin Reddan from the side of a ruck, right in front of the referee and, crucially, his own posts; Gopperth's 66th minute kick ensured it would be a long road back for the Scots.

They couldn't make it and Leinster breezed in for further tries from Kirchner and D'Arcy.

O'Driscoll didn't make it to the winning line either but he did arrive to lift the silverware. His career ended up, appropriately enough, in the familiar guise of a champion.

Leinster: R Kearney (D Fanning 78); F McFadden, B O'Driscoll (I Madigan 10), G D'Arcy, Z Kirchner; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan (I Boss 78); C Healy (J McGrath 67), S Cronin, M Ross (M Moore 48), D Toner, M McCarthy (L Cullen 61), R Ruddock, S Jennings (S O'Brien 56), J Heaslip capt.

Glasgow Warriors: P Murchie; S Maitland, A Dunbar (S Lamont 55), P Horne, T Seymour; F Russell (R Jackson 66), C Cusiter (N Matawalu 44); G Reid (R Grant 46), D Hall (P MacArthur 25), J Welsh (M Low 55), J Gray, A Kellock capt (T Swinson 49), R Harley, C Fusaro (L Nakarawa 26), J Strauss.

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)

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