Johnny Sexton on why Leinster did not kick the ball out for half-time 4 months ago

Johnny Sexton on why Leinster did not kick the ball out for half-time

It was a crucial call that cost Leinster seven points, and potentially the final.

Leinster were 10-3 up and the clock had just ticked past 40 minutes.

Leinster had a ruck just inside their half and the opportunity to go into the break, in the Champions Cup final, seven points clear.

Leinster scrum-half Luke McGrath then opted to keep the ball in play. He put up a box-kick that Saracens claimed and the half raged on. Within four minutes, Sean Maitland was gliding over for a converted try that made it 10-10.

In the second half, Saracens scored 10 unanswered points to claim their third European Cup victory.

Post-match, Johnny Sexton explained what the thinking was behind Leinster looking to keep the ball in play. He commented:

 "Our thinking at the time was to kick the ball on Billy Vunipola, who was standing on the 22, and try to win the ball over his head and try to get a two-score lead before half-time.
"Obviously, we kicked the ball as close to their 22, you don't want to concede a penalty and be defending a 22 lineout. Your decisions are as good as they are in hindsight.
"We made a ballsy decision when we were 3-0 up to go for a scrum and not take three points. It's a great decision because we scored. It's not a good decision to box kick it when you cough up a 10-3 lead.
"That period just before half-time and that period just after half-time where we had maybe two or three chances to score, that's how it felt when we were in their 22 pounding away at their line, when we got so close to their line a couple of times and didn't take advantage of the overlap or we coughed up a couple of offloads or a turnover on the deck.
"That 20 minute period before and after half-time was crucial in the end."

Luke McGrath with a box kick under pressure from Maro Itoje of Saracens during the Champions Cup Final. (Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile)

Liam Williams turned Garry Ringrose over with a great tackle and a borderline poach and Saracens survived. That would be the closest Leinster got to breaching the Sarries defence.

"Those 20 minutes, either side of half-time, were crucial," the Leinster captain mused.

"They are the things, in hindsight, that you'd love to change but you can't."