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13th May 2018

Dan Carter overcomes final heartbreak to pay classy tribute to Leinster

Patrick McCarry

Less than three minutes into the 2017/18 Champions Cup final and Pat Lambie badly ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament stepping inside an on-rushing Rob Kearney.

The South African knew his day was done and he needed medical staff to help him get off the pitch. Up came the sub’s board and number 22 came on for number 10.

That’s when Jack Conan, over on the Leinster bench, got a bit of a surprise.

“To be honest with you,” Conan told SportsJOE, ” I didn’t know Dan Carter was injured until Tales came on.

“Personally, I hadn’t heard and I didn’t know that. Tough for them to lose someone of such quality. And for Lambie to get injured in the first five or 10 is tough but credit to those lads who went about their job so well. Credit to Tales, he had a great game.”

Tales did come on and he had a fine game but he was not supposed to be in Racing’s matchday squad. He got a late call-up when Carter failed a fitness test due to a tight hamstring.

Having turned the quarter final win against Clermont with a piece of attacking brilliance and helped Racing see out their semi win over Munster, he had more than earned his place in the final. How Racing fans must have wished he was out there in the final quarter, managing the game, and how they must have longed for Carter to be in the drop goal position that Tales found himself in with the clock ticking past 81 minutes.

Tales took his shot but his drop went left and wide. This was not how it was supposed to end in Europe for the All Blacks legend.

Post-match, Carter was class in action. He sought out his teammates and coaches and said a few words. Sometimes no words were needed. There was just a hug or a strong arm across the back. He must have felt as helpless then as he did watching from the stands.

Carter also sought out Isa Nacewa, the Leinster captain and a fellow Kiwi, for a warm embrace. He stopped to congratulate Leo Cullen and Johnny Sexton too.

BT’s Martin Bayfield caught up with him for a quick word and, after congratulating Leinster, he focused on his beaten teammates.

“I’m really proud of the boys. We stuck in there for the majority of the game but we just made a few mistakes in the final five or 10 minutes. We play for each other like a family. You can see that from the way we were defending today. I’m really proud of what we have achieved this year.”

With both sides parting ways at the stadium – Leinster were flying back to Dublin late on Saturday night – that was it. There was no post-match function and sharing of beers and war stories. Carter did take to social media, though, to pay tribute to Racing again and to congratulate Leinster on their victory.

‘Gutted my hamstring didn’t pass the fitness test which meant I had to watch my Racing 92 brothers from the stands. So proud of the way they played for each other. Congrats to Leinster on winning another European title. Time to rehab.’

Carter will be hoping this is not the end for him in France. Racing do have a home semi-final in the Top 14 and he could still go out with silverware clutched in his paws.

It won’t be the complete fairytale but it would be a great way to sign off.

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