Was it the greatest Heineken Cup Final of all time? Certainly the 16th ERC showpiece, and the sixth staged in Cardiff, featured the greatest tournament comeback of all time.
Leinster were 16 points adrift at the break, yet fought back to score 27 points without response to win the most coveted club rugby title in the world game for the second time in three years.
They are only the fifth side to win the Heineken Cup more than once and they did it by outdoing Bath’s previous record second half fight-back of 1997, when they overcame a nine point deficit (15-6) to beat Brive 19-18 in Bordeaux.
At the heart of the Leinster revival was Heineken Man of the match Jonny Sexton, who became only the third player to score two tries in a Heineken Cup final and ended up with a match tally of 28 points.
It could have been even better for the Leinster outside half had he landed a 68th minute penalty, before featuring among the raft of replacements and leaving the Millennium Stadium to a standing ovation. Had he kicked a fifth penalty he would have relegated Diego Dominguez’s (Stade Francais) 30 point haul in his side’s 2001 defeat to Leicester to runners-up spot.
On a day of Heineken Cup Final records, here are a few more:
6 – the most tries ever scored in a Heineken Cup Final, two more than the old mark
27 – the most points scored in any half of the 16 finals by one team (Leinster in the second half)
2 – Jonny Sexton joined Sebastien Carrat (Brive, 1997) and Leon Lloyd (Leicester, 2001) in scoring a brace of final tries
Leinster’s victory opened the way for Connacht to be awarded the 24th qualifying spot for the 2011 / 2012 Heineken Cup – the first time they have will have played in European club rugby’s premier tournament after 98 games, and being ever present over 15 seasons, in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Victory also allowed Leinster to match Munster’s two Heineken Cup titles (2006, 2008) and leaves them one step away from become only the fourth team in Europe to complete a European Cup and Domestic league double.
Leinster will end their season against Munster at Thomond Park on Saturday, 28 May, in the Celtic League Grand Final hoping to emulate the double successes of Toulouse (1996), Leicester (2001 and 2002), and London Wasps (2004).
Leinster 33 Northampton Saints 22
HT: 6-22 Att: 72,456
Leinster: I Nacewa; S Horgan, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy (F McFadden 67), L Fitzgerald; J Sexton (I Madigan 76), E Reddan (I Boss 70); C Healy (H van der Merwe 61), R Strauss (J Harris-Wright 77), M Ross (S Wright 77), L Cullen (captain), N Hines (D Toner 77), K McLaughlin (S Jennings 41), S O’Brien, J Heaslip
Scorers: Tries: J Sexton 2, N Hines; Cons: J Sexton 3; Pens: J Sexton 4
Northampton Saints: B Foden; C Ashton (S Commins 77), J Clarke, J Downey (J Ansbro 66), P Diggin; S Myler (S Geraghty 66), L Dickson; S Tonga’uiha (A Waller 66), D Hartley (captain, B Sharman 68), B Mujati (T Mercey 66), C Lawes, C Day (M Sorenson 76), C Clark (T Mercey 28-36), P Dowson, R Wilson (M Easter 62)
Scorers: Tries: P Dowson, B Foden, D Hartley; Cons: S Myler 2; Pen: S Myler
Yellow Cards: B Mujati 26, P Dowson 59
Heineken Man of the Match: Jonny Sexton (Leinster)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)