"We came within 60 seconds of it" - Johnny Sexton on Leinster devastation
"Thanks for asking, though."
Leinster captain Johnny Sexton was still chewing over late decisions as his side came to terms with another cup final defeat.
Post-match press briefings are never pleasant for the losing team. In fairness to Leinster head coach Leo Cullen, he was making the best of a bad situation. For Johnny Sexton, though, his feelings were closer to the surface.
Leinster led the 2022 Champions Cup final for well over an hour but, when it came to the crunch, they lost out to an opportune Artur Retiere try. The score came after 12 minutes of La Rochelle pressure, and with just over a minute to go.
By the time Ihaia West slotted the final conversion of the game, making it 24-21, time had run out and the French side were the champions, for the first time in their history. There was no chance for Leinster to swing back.
'They were infringing everywhere' - Johnny Sexton
In the post-match briefing, Leo Cullen refused to linger on any late refereeing decisions, although Johnny Sexton remarked, "Pretty devastated. It's a tough way to lose... a couple of slips, but fair play to Retiere for reaching out.
"Maybe we should have been more aggressive, when we had penalties, as they were infringing everywhere." He added:
"You can't fault the effort, and the spirit to hold La Rochelle out near the end... We judge ourselves off both competitions... this is the one we wanted to win, and we came within 60 seconds of it."
Sexton was fulsome in his praise of the La Rochelle supporters at Stade Velodrome, remarking that it was 'like an away game' for the four-time champions.
In truth, Leinster were flat and did little to gee up the thousands of fans that had headed south for the final. La Rochelle head coach Ronan O'Gara remarked that it was the first European game in a long stretch where Leinster were held try-less.
As per usual in France, Sexton was featured heavily by the TV producers and, by extension, the big screen in the stadium. Told, post-match, that his face was frequent on the Velodrome big screen, Sexton remarked:
"Did it? I didn't notice... thanks for asking, though."
Turning 37 in July, Sexton has one last crack at making it five in a row, next season.
Leinster have now lost their last two visits to the big dance. Sexton will hope for one last swing of it, next season. In Dublin, of all places.