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'We did it the hard way' - Joyous Johnny Sexton hails 'special' Stuart Lancaster after hard-fought European triumph

Isa Nacewa, left, and Jonathan Sexton of Leinster lift the Cup and celebrate after the European Rugby Champions Cup Final match between Leinster and Racing 92 at the San Mames Stadium in Bilbao, Spain. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Isa Nacewa, left, and Jonathan Sexton of Leinster lift the Cup and celebrate after the European Rugby Champions Cup Final match between Leinster and Racing 92 at the San Mames Stadium in Bilbao, Spain. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Captain Isa Nacewa and Johnny Sexton kicked Leinster to a 15-12 victory over Racing 92 in the Champions Cup final in Bilbao.

Nacewa, in his final season with the province, booted the match-winning penalty in the 78th minute. It put Leinster, who have former England boss Stuart Lancaster on their coaching staff, ahead for the first time in the match.

Sexton kicked three penalties before two late on from Nacewa helped Leinster come from 12-9 down to win.

Isa Nacewa told BT Sport: "This is for all the fans. It took a long time to get here, alot of people are a part of this, backroom staff, back office staff, players that couldn't be here today. I think of Jamie (Heaslip), Sean (O'Brien), Josh van der Flier, Fergus McFadden. It's for a lot of people and it took a lot of hard work.

"It's a special day so we have to make the most of it.

"They're world class. They really are. All week Johnny said it would be a Test match, they have the best defence in the competition and at times we had to change our way.

"Thank God that we've got Johnny our genius to marshall us around the field and take control. It's special.

Sexton hailed the coaching ticket of Stuart Lancaster and Leo Cullen for delivering the province's first European title since 2012 and Sexton's fourth.

"We did it the hard way. We couldn't get going at all during the game. Every time we got into there 22 the ball was killed," Sexton said.

"It was very greasy and they came out and slowed us down at the ruck and that's obviously the way to beat us.

"I can't believe we're champions again. I never thought two or three years ago that this was going to happen again. I'm so happy for all those young lads. I'm so happy for all the coaches.

"Stuart Lancaster, what a special coach to come in to do what he's done and for Leo to have the courage to bring him in. It's amazing.

"The belief he has instilled in us, the way we train and also the international coaches. These young guys are doing a lot of learning."

A PRO14 semi-final against Munster awaits and Sexton is already looking forward to the inter-provincial clash.

"Two more in the league and we go to Australia then and cap off a dream season," he added.

"We'll have a target on us now against Munster. We're European champions and they'll come out firing.

"Munster didn't play as they would have liked against Racing and we'll be playing against the best Munster instead of that Munster."

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