Saracens beat Leinster to win the Heineken Champions Cup for the third time in the club’s history. They defeated the reigning champions to become the most successful English club in the competition. Here we pick out the main talking points from a thrilling final.
Live by the sword die by the sword
Leinster lead 10-3 after 40 minutes and many expected them to have a seven point advantage at the break. They were in possession and simply needed to kick the ball dead to lead at the interval. The four time European champions decided to keep the ball infield before scrum half Luke McGrath decided to launch a box kick. Saracens won the aerial duel and subsequently a penalty which Owen Farrell kicked in to the Leinster ’22. The English side retained possession before Sean Maitland scored a try to level the game at 10-10 at half time. Leinster went in search of another score but instead lost their lead. It proved to be a critical turning point in a game of fine margins.
Saracens power proves too much
The final proved to be a war of attrition with both sides willing to go through the phases. The three tries scored during the game came from the work of the forwards . Tadgh Furlong’s try for Leinster came after pick and goes from 5 metres out before Sean Maitland’s Saracens try was created by forward pressure. Billy Vunipola drove over for the decisive try off a scrum. The game was level at 10-10 when Alex Lozowski made a big hit on Jack Conan before George Kruis knocked Johnny Sexton backwards before the English team won a penalty after the Ireland flyhalf did not release. It proved to be a critical turning point as Sarace gained a lead they would not relinquish. The English team’s victory was built around the power of the pack including Kruis, Vunipola, Maro Itoje and Will Skelton.
Leinster left to rue missed chances
The four time champions will be disappointed to let a ten point lead slip and go over 40 minutes without a score. Leinster had their chances to retake the lead at the start of the second half when Gary Ringrose surged inside the Saracens 22. He had four team mates to his right against two defenders but he chose to straighten the line and go in to contact. Eight phases later Tadhg Furlong had a chance to play a tip-on pass to Ringrose but he chose to take the ball in to contact before Liam Williams turned the ball over for the three time champions. It was Leinster’s last chance and who knows what would have happened if they scored.
Another English Victory
The 6 Nations was a disappointing one for Ireland as they were beaten by both Wales and England. The defeat to the English on the opening weekend ended Ireland’s hopes of back to back Grand Slams and showed vulnerabilites within the Irish side. The Saracens starting team contained 11 players born in England while 13 members of the Leinster team were born in Ireland. This was another feelgood moment for English rugby but despite this victory there will be no panic within the Irish set up. The men in green may get the chance to rectify these losses in the World Cup later this year.
Vunipola shows his ability
Despite facing criticism off the field for his support of rugby player Israel Folau after the Australian’s controversial comments on homosexuality, there is no doubt that Bily Vunipola is one of the best forwards in the world. The Saracens and English no8 sealed the victory with his side’s second try and he was instrumental throughout. The 41 times capped English international is not afraid to play on the edge as he earned his side a crucial penalty whch lead to his team’s first try. He pinned Rob Kearney to the ground and made it difficult for him to roll away as referee Jerome Garces penalised the Leinster man. The three time Champions cup winner made 16 carries and 17 turnovers in an all action display as he lead his side to victory.