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Leinster were crowned champions of Europe for the first time after edging Leicester Tigers 19-16 in a nail-biting Heineken Cup final at Murrayfield on Saturday evening.
Leinster dominated the early exchanges, working themselves into a 9-3 advantage through a drop goal apiece from Jonathan Sexton and Brian O’Driscoll, and a penalty from the former.
However, the game turned after the sin-binning of Stan Wright shortly before half time, Leicester racking up ten unanswered points whilst the Leinster prop was off the field, with Julien Dupuy slotting over a penalty either side of a try from Ben Woods.
But when restored to their full complement, Leinster regained the initiative and Jamie Heaslip leveled matters when he crashed over for a converted try on 49 minutes.
Sexton squandered a penalty to edge Leinster back in front moments later but he made no mistake when a second opportunity came his way with just over ten minutes remaining.
Leicester tried valiantly to restore parity once more but Leinster, inspired by yet another Herculean effort from star flanker Rocky Elsom, held firm to ensure that the Heineken Cup will remain in Ireland for another year.
Leinster made for the worthiest of winners. Indeed, the side which had dethroned Munster in the semi-finals with a remarkable display of controlled aggression again had just a little too much power and intensity for another of Europe's elite, the double-chasing Tigers.
And for a short period in the first half, Michael Cheika's men looked more than capable of overwhelming Leicester.
Indeed, the opening half hour was all about Leinster, and Jonathan Sexton in particular. Entrusted with the number ten jersey in the absence of the injured Felipe Contepomi, the young Irishman excelled, bossing the game with his incisive running and pinpoint kicking out of hand.
He was also linking quite effectively with O’Driscoll, who opened the scoring with a smartly-taken drop goal from right in from right in front of the posts.
Dupuy replied with a penalty for Leicester but there was no denying that The Tigers were struggling.
Their line-out was proving surprisingly vulnerable and Leinster were more than holding their own in the scrum, an area in which many had tipped Leicester to dominate.
Elsom was proving predictably difficult for Leicester to contain, too.
It was Sexton, though, who was running the show and it was he who deservedly edged Leinster back in front with a quite magnificent drop goal from halfway.
Moments later, he attacked the gain-line and off-loaded beautifully into the path of Gordon D’Arcy. The Ireland centre appeared to have generated sufficient momentum to carry him over the line but he was held up - literally - by a combination of Craig Newby and Woods as he attempted to ground the ball.
Leinster would not relent, though, and Sexton stroked over a penalty moments later to extend his side’s advantage to six.
Things were beginning to look a little ominous for Leicester. Indeed, they looked tired, which would have hardly been a surprise given their ridiculously taxing run of fixtures over the past four weeks.
However, this is a side blessed with a quite remarkable ability for grinding out victories in difficult circumstances and that is what they set about trying to do.
All they needed was a spark and they got one in the form of a quite stunning break from Dan Hipkiss, one which took the centre from inside his own 22 to within five meters of the Leinster line.
It lifted The Tigers and the pressure on the Leinster line which followed eventually prompted a panicked Stan Wright from taking Sam Vesty out off the ball as the Tigers fly-half attempted to get his hands on an off-load from Dupuy.
The result was a yellow card for Wright and Leicester, unsurprisingly, took advantage.
Dupuy kicked things off by converting the resulting penalty and then, just seconds before half time, Woods powered through Isa Nacewa and D'Arcy to score after an excellent show-and-go from Vesty had created an opening.
French scrum-half Dupuy converted before adding another penalty shortly after the interval and Leicester had gone from six points down to four points up.
The impetus, it seemed, was not with The Tigers, who were bidding to win their third Heineken Cup.
However, when Wright returned so too did Leinster’s confidence, and indeed their dominance.
Elsom proved key in this regard, rousing the men in blue and navy with a barnstorming run in the 45th minute which was remarkably similar in its effect to Hipkiss’ break in the first half.
Indeed, just moments later Heaslip, with the aid of the supporting Jennings, managed to barge his way over. Sexton's subsequent conversion meant that the scores were tied.
It was anyone's game in that regard but there only ever looked like one winner form that point on.
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