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12th May 2018

It was bloody, it was brutal but Leinster are European champions again

Patrick McCarry


Leinster are the European champions again for the fourth time after beating Racing 92 in one of the nerviest finals you’ll ever see.

Leinster trailed after only three minutes and only led with three minutes to go as two Isa Nacewa penalties in the closing stages turned a 12-9 deficit to a 15-12 victory.

Having gone into the match without Maxime Machenaud and late withdrawal Dan Carter, Racing then lost outhalf Pat Lambie after only two minutes when his knee buckled in stepping Rob Kearney. On came Remi Tales but at least they could console themselves with Teddy Iribaren kicking them 3-0 ahead.

Sexton levelled matters on 15 minutes after the patented ‘Leinster Loop’ opened up the French side and Isa Nacewa broke well up the left wing. Parity did not last long as Leinster were penalised at their own lineout and then a maul on their 22 after they ceded 70 metres with one hasty play. Iribaren made it 6-3.

Leinster were making most of the attacking surges and they went in level for the endeavour when Leone Nakarawa was penalised for a deliberate intercept and Sexton made it 6-6.

The second half got off to a poor start for Leinster as Isa Nacewa squandered possession, Racing thundered forward and Iribaren knocked over another simple penalty when Barnes pinged the Blues at the breakdown.

The fact that Leinster were struggling to get going was summed up in 30 seconds as Sexton squibbed a poor penalty attempt from 48 metres out and Nacewa then kicked another ball out on the full. Leinster got the ball back – Racing were happy to let them make most of the running – and Sexton redeemed himself on 53 minutes with a penalty to make it 9-9.

Sexton teed up another one from halfway, just before the hour mark, and while he had the distance, his kick eeked right and wide.

Racing sensed the game was there for the taking and steamed into the Leinster half. James Ryan looked to have saved his side but two quick penalty calls went against Leinster and soon Iribaren was pinging his side 12-9 ahead.

With seven minutes on the clock, Wayne Barnes penalised Racing and it was Nacewa that stepped up, instead of Sexton, to level the game at 12-12.

When Teddy Thomas put his team in big trouble and another penalty was awarded in front of the sticks, Nacewa – in his final European game before he retires – made no mistake.

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