Saturday 21 May 2011, Millenium Stadium
Leinster 33-22 Northampton
5 Reasons why BOD & Co are champions…
To reach the final Leinster had to get past Aviva Premiership finalists Leicester and Saracens, defending European champions Toulouse, Top 14 winners Clermont Auvergne and Racing Métro. It was a daunting route and they knew how to dig deep to win. They also knew the Saints would be shattered after a season in which the front-liners were afforded little rest – and that fatigue showed in the second half.
Change in Tactics
Leinster were outplayed in the loose and outmuscled up front in the first half – but some half-time tweaks paid off. Scrum coach Greg Feek told his players to keep Saints’ front row down and they reaped the benefits while Shane Jennings’s introduction proved crucial at the breakdown, leaving Sean O’Brien to do what he does best from six.
As well as the tactical changes, Jonathan Sexton and Joe Schmidt (below centre, with Jono Gibbes and Feek) came to the fore at half-time with words of wisdom. The fly-half pointed to Liverpool’s comeback from 3-0 down to win the 2005 Champions League final while the coach said that to recover from a 16-point deficit would ensure their win was remembered in 20 years.
Strength in Depth
Leinster’s ability to bring on quality replacements proved decisive. Northampton have a strong first XV but not the necessary back-up. Take the props; the Irish side could call on two experienced internationals while Saints’ substitutes were aged 21 and 23 – green in front-row terms. So once momentum was with Leinster, Saints didn’t have any match-winners to bring on.
It’s been touched upon in previous points, but Leinster have faith in each other – and their previous triumphs provide a basis for that. Even when they seemed out of the game at half-time, they hit back strongly. As O’Brien said: “There’s massive belief in this squad.”
This article appeared in the July 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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