Rugby World looks at the big talking points from Leinster's 34-12 win over Glasgow in the RaboDirect Pro12 final on Saturday
Leo is King
On Saturday rugby said goodbye to two of the most talented players of a generation, but while Brian and Jonny attracted most of the headlines, others will have hung up their boots without half as much fanfare.
Leo Cullen is the most successful club captain in Europe, as the only man to lead his side to three Heineken Cups. When the bashful but brutal lock took to the field at the RDS for the final time and when the winners medals were handed out, his name was met with a roar that equalled, possibly even surpassed, that of the iconic Brian O’Driscoll.
While Leinster have shared BOD with Ireland, the Lions and the rest of the world, Cullen is more associated with Leinster than the national side. The affection for him was heartfelt – even the pub across the road was renamed in his honour on Saturday – and Jamie Heaslip insisting that BOD and Leo lift the trophy marked a fitting end to two remarkable careers.
It’s time to move on
Unlike last season, there were no more cries of ‘one more year’ when Brian O’Driscoll joined his team-mates in a lap of honour around the pitch. Departing the game as a winning Lions tourist, Six Nations champion and Pro12 champion is not a bad way to go.
Whispers about Ian Madigan injecting more pace and excitement into Leinster’s performances have grown louder – to the point where many felt without him Leinster would not have made the Pro 12 final. In one way a new era begins at the province but the word ‘transition’ did not sit at all well with captain Jamie Heaslip. He refused to be drawn on that idea saying that every year big players have left the club.
Glasgow may be moving on without, among others, Chris Cusiter but they are a club that will continue to grow. They won more games than any other team in the regular league season and having made it to the final for the first time, they now know what it will take to win their maiden title.
All hail the man in the middle
The mood was so good at the RDS that when the officials names were announced before kick-off even the referee’s name got a small cheer. Nigel Owens has earned a reputation as a fair referee who doesn’t think himself the focal point of the match and likes the game to flow. He allowed advantage, talked to the players throughout and explained his decisions, which led to a high-tempo, end-to-end rugby match.
Supersubs to the fore
The physicality of the Pro12 final resulted in players dropping like flies through injury or simply tiredness as they rested during breaks in play. That’s the way it is when silverware is up for grabs, with every man giving his all. Both sides emptied the bench in this brutal encounter. Special mention goes to Leone Nakarawa who was outstanding when he came on – his impact was seen in his offloading and bullocking runs downfield as he scattered defenders like skittles.
The need to be clinical
Sometimes the only difference between a winning side and losing one is that the victors want it more. That was not the case this time round as Al Kellock said the Warriors “desperately wanted to win” but at this, the most crucial point of the season, their stonewall defence caved.
Glasgow came with a game plan to start quickly, keep the ball off the floor and create confusion in the Leinster defence. Their adventurous approach was impressive to watch at times but also led to handling errors. On the other hand, Leinster were clinical and took their opportunities. They absorbed the Warriors’ pressure and quickly switched to attacking play, which helped them run in four tries to none.
Basking in the glorious sunshine at the RDS, colleagues from Italy and even London asked, “Is it like this in Dublin all the time?” If only! But for the last three years when the Pro12 final has been played at this venue the weather has been the same. The queues for the ice cream vans were as long as those for the bar, the smell of barbeques filled the air and no one had to worry about having at least four layers of clothing before leaving the house. The notion of a summer season must have crept into many conversations.