Mon, May 23, 2011 - Page 20 News List

Leinster hoist the Heineken Cup over Northampton after thrilling comeback

Reuters, CARDIFF

Leinster’s Jonny Sexton kicks a penalty during their match against the Northampton Saints on Saturday in Cardiff.

Photo: AFP

Leinster completed an extraordinary comeback when they stormed back from a 16-point halftime deficit against Northampton to win 33-22 and lift the Heineken Cup for the second time in three years on Saturday.

Northampton looked on course for their second title through first-half tries to Phil Dowson, Ben Foden and Dylan Hartley, before Leinster roared back with flyhalf Jonathan Sexton scoring two tries and kicking 18 points.

Nathan Hines weighed in with their third try to complete an astonishing turnaround and make it four Heineken Cup wins for Ireland in the past six finals

The prospect looked highly unlikely after a first half in which Northampton, beaten by Leicester in the Premiership semi-finals, were in total control.

They put down a marker with a massive scrum after five minutes and, for 40 minutes at least, never looked back as Leinster, who have developed into a formidable set-piece unit, had no answers.

That opening shove opened the way for flanker Dowson to score the first try and another effort had the Leinster pack backpedaling to hand over a further three points with a Steve Myler penalty.

Northampton prop Brian Mujati was yellow-carded for pulling Sean O’Brien off the ball after 27 minutes, but, rather than suffering from the loss, the English club were spurred to greater feats.

Leinster’s scrum crumpled against the force of Northampton’s seven-man unit and Myler took full advantage as he threw a great dummy to break the line and set up Foden for the second try.

Captain Dylan Hartley completed a dream 40 minutes for the English side when he barreled over for the third try and a halftime lead of 22-6.

Leinster were a transformed team after the break and hit back immediately when Brian O’Driscoll broke clear and moved the ball to Sexton to score in the corner.

Gordon D’Arcy thought he had scored another soon after, but was ruled to have been held up by desperate Northampton defenders.

The disappointment did not last long though as, showing admirable patience to move the ball all the way along the line and back again, Leinster created space for Sexton to race in for his second try.

The flyhalf converted to make the score 22-20 15 minutes into the second half. With their blood pumping and their fans roaring, Leinster suddenly remembered how to scrummage, shoved Northampton backward and earned a penalty that Sexton slotted to edge them into a 23-22 lead.

Sexton added another penalty, with Northampton having Dowson sin-binned for killing the ball, before lock Hines drove over for the third try.

The Sexton conversion made the score 33-22 with the Irish side scoring 27 points in 26 remarkable second-half minutes and Northampton never looked remotely capable of recovering.

“We were shell-shocked and needed halftime to regroup,” Sexton said. “I said: ‘You see this all the time in sport. We have to believe it’s our day.’”

“There were some choice words at halftime. We knew if we could hold on to the ball we could have them in trouble,” O’Driscoll said.

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