Monday, May 23, 2011

A Game of Two Halves

Northampton 22-33 Leinster

Its been a while since I have written about Leinster. I have been so busy that the number of articles I'm writing has declined. However, there is nothing in my life that can get in the way of writing about last Saturday's 2011 Heineken Cup Final between Leinster and Northampton.

I have seen a lot of great games in a wide variety of sports but this game was probably the best game I have ever watched. This game epitomised everything I love about sport. Leinster were down, and seemingly out, at half time trailing 22-6. Northampton were dominating every aspect of the game. Their scrum was far superior. They didn't allow Leinster to hold onto the ball for more than a few phases thus preventing Leinster from getting into rhythm. They were playing with pace and width and were able to open big holes in a strong Leinster defence. Ben Foden had a great game as he made it clear that he will be the starting fullback for England in the upcoming World Cup. Foden, Phil Dowson and Dylan Hartley all scored tries for the Saints in the first 40 minutes.

Brian O'Driscoll
Then, the game turned on its head. Leinster came out in the second half a different team. They played at a level I have never seen before. They were amazing to say the least. I find it hard to think of any rugby side, club or international, that could have stopped Leinster in the second half. Jonny Sexton led the way scoring two tries. He also added three conversions and four penalties. All in all, he had a whooping 27 of Leinster's 33. More importantly, he was the main voice in a inspirational half-time talk. Nathan Hines capped off Leinster's remarkable comeback with a 65th minute try to give Leinster a 33-22 lead they would not relinquish.

Liverpool's historic comeback in Istanbul
It was a sensational game that reminded of the 2005 Champions League Final when Liverpool came back from a 3-0 deficit against AC Milan at half time to tie the game at 3-3 and eventually win 3-2 on penalties. Leinster's victory in the Millennium Stadium is another great step for Irish rugby. Irish teams have now won 4 of the past 6 Heineken Cup tournaments. The win has resulted in Ireland being entitled to a fourth team in next year's Heineken Cup competition which means that Connacht will be playing at the top tier of European rugby for the first time ever next season.

Leinster, with two Heineken Cup triumphs in the last three years, will look to cap off a hugely successful 2011 season as they face Munster in Thomond Park this Saturday the 28th May in the 2011 Magners League Final. The game kicks off at 5:05pm and will be covered by RTE, TG4 and BBC.
Jonny Sexton


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