The 2010-11 Rugby season has come to an end for all four Irish provinces. The season ending finale in the Magners League may have fallen in Munster's favor but there is no doubting who is the happiest with their achievements.
Leinster's heineken cup final win over Northampton will live long in the memories of most who watched it. It was an unbelievable affair that exemplified the tale of two halves.
For most people the memory that will remain will have occurred within the lines of the field. A Jonathan Sexton try, a Brian O'Driscoll tackle or a Sean O'Brien line break.
The memory that is sticking in my head from this past rugby season is nothing that occurred within the 80 minute final.
It did however occur during the rugby game. At full time Brian O'Driscoll eluded to the contribution of man of the match, Jonathan Sexton, not for his 28 points or pin point striking of the ball from play but for his actions at halftime.
O'Driscoll told Skysports reporters, "There were some inspirational words from Jonathan at half-time which picked us up, he was a man possessed. He said this game would be remembered if we came back and we will remember this for a long time."
Sexton stood up and was counted as a leader for his team at a vital stage. The sheer magnitude of that achievement really is startling.
To put it into perspective Sexton has 16 international caps and is 25 years old. Shane Horgan was in that dressing room with 65 international caps under his belt as well as over 200 appearances for Leinster. Gordon D'Arcy added another 57 international caps while Nathan Hines threw in his 72 caps and the fact that he has captained his native Scotland into the equation.
Oh and by the way, there was also the team's current captain in Leo Cullen and former Leinster, current Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll to add to the mix.
Sexton's willingness to speak and lead his team at this time is a reflection of his maturity and development as a rugby player. His performances on the field have rarely been under scrutiny. He had already proven his big game capability in the previous Heineken cup final victory as well as playing for Ireland on the pitch.
He had yet to show (or we in the media had at least yet to hear about) his leadership. This could be a defining moment for Sexton's career as he has yet to fully establish himself as first choice international out half ahead of Ronan O'Gara even if he holds a certain edge on the field.
If Sexton can carry this leadership through the Summer internationals and translate it into the World cup, Ireland could have a bright outlook to erase the memories of their previous outing in the competition.
Youth has been Jonathan Sexton's nemesis over his short international career. Despite an explosive start against South Africa with his goal kicking he has been somewhat inconsistent since. He has shown that he has the talent to kick from any position on the field as well as under the pressures of provincial rugby but his consistency had obviously been affected by the pressures of the international game.
If this maturity is a new found aspect of Sexton's game then it could turn him into the clear choice as Ireland's starting fly half.
Stability at that position is going to be vital for Ireland's chances in the world cup as a rotation between Ronan O'Gara and Sexton would hurt continuity for the whole team.www.twitter.com/Cianaf