Wednesday 14 November 2018

Sexton masterclass drives Leinster to make it a double

Jordan Larmour celebrates with team-mate Garry Ringrose after scoring his side’s fourth yesterday. Photo: Ramsey Cardy
Jordan Larmour celebrates with team-mate Garry Ringrose after scoring his side’s fourth yesterday. Photo: Ramsey Cardy
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Leinster made history last night when they blitzed Scarlets by 40-32 to add the Guinness Pro14 title to their Champions Cup success of a fortnight ago. It was the last game for their captain Isa Nacewa, who hobbled off inside the first quarter having started the game with a calf injury that has limited his input in the last month.

"I feel a bit like an irresponsible parent the fact that he was out there in the first place," coach Leo Cullen said afterwards. "But it was hard to deny him, watching him in the last couple of weeks. He stepped up to kick the penalties two weeks ago, and to see him getting the trophy there today . . . nobody deserves it more. I'm delighted for him."

It was the fourth time Leinster and Scarlets - the Pro14 holders, having beaten Leinster and Munster respectively in the semis and final last year - have met this season, with Leinster unbeaten from the series.

A record crowd for a Pro14 final of 46,092 turned up to watch Leinster put the game to bed early, inspired by another masterclass from Johnny Sexton. That allowed them to coast through a late Scarlets comeback. For Nacewa it was the ideal sign-off season having come out of retirement.

"There's a standard in Leinster that you have to live up to every day, and you can't hide from that," he said.

"I'm not making that now so it's time for me to bow out. To anyone who's got passion for the game and knows their limits and can keep going then keep going until mentally and physically, you need to stop. Even talking to Drico during the week we were chatting about how at some stage physically you know you just can't keep going and at times mentally you might get to a point where enough is enough.

"At Leinster young guys coming in the future will create the standard if they stay humble and keep working hard. It'll be pretty phenomenal to watch and I'll be in a front-row seat keeping an eye on them. When I came back (from retirement) I said I wanted to win trophies. I was coming back with Johnny (Sexton, from Paris) at the same time from his little time away and we were in a bit of an evolution to get to the point of today. The way we used the whole squad took longer than expected but the coaches have been phenomenal in the way they've managed the group."

For 16 of Leinster's match day 23, the season comprised a Grand Slam with Ireland alongside the European and Pro14 trophies. They fly out to Australia later this week in search of a first series win there since 1979.

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