Hail Leinster Rugby! 2017/18 Double: PRO14 and Champions Cup

0
Hail Leinster Rugby! 2017/18 Double: PRO14 and Champions Cup
Dublin , Ireland - 26 May 2018; Leinster players celebrate following the Guinness PRO14 Final between Leinster and Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

They will be saying “Hail Leinster Rugby!” The Irish Rugby powerhouse has completed the 2017/18 double: the Guinness PRO14 and European Rugby Champions Cup.

A massive achievement, that cements the current status of rugby in Ireland. A status of supremacy, from the national team through to the Celtic League grand final.

Leinster 40 – Tries: Toner, Lowe, Cronin, Lamour, Conan; Conversions: Jonathon Sexton (2), Carbery; Penalties: Sexton (3)

Scarlets 32 – Tries: McNicholl (3), Kruger; Cons: Leigh Halfpenny (2), Jones; Pens: Hafpenny (2)

Hail Leinster Rugby! 2017/18 Double: PRO14 and Champions Cup

After claiming the European Champions Cup title two weeks ago, Leinster had little time to dwell. They toasted their fourth European crown of course – but it was tempered by the need to play an Pro14 semi-final that next weekend. Once that win over Munster was accomplished [16-15], the side knew that a rare ‘double’ could be achievable.

So yesterday, Leinster Rugby faced Scarlets at Aviva Stadium. They would do that with an largely in tact side. Led by Isa Nacewa, who would run out for his 185th and final appearance for the club.

The Guinness Pro14 grand final would be one ‘out of the box’. Not only for the mammoth occasion, the electric atmosphere and classic rivalry, but also on the scoreboard.

Often, many finals are clouded in heavy defense. True to start with, as penalties were exchanged. And while it’s a reflection on the importance of the fixture, soon enough each side got to terms with the conditions. Devin Toner began the first half try scoring action, that ultimately saw Leinster Rugby extend a handy 21-11 lead.

Grand Final 2nd half produces 40 points

To look through the highlights, it is recommended not to focus on the three-minute edited version. No, stick to watching the entire match. The second half of which was a superb advertisement for the sport.

The free-flowing 40-32 final victory over the Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium, was not one sided either. Sparked by Johnny McNichol, the Welsh side almost caused a boil over late, as they repaired much of the early damage. Down by 40-18, the Dragons roared, and two late tries had the fans in blue biting their finger nails.

Some had assumed that so much knock-out rugby could count against Leinster. And during the last quarter, desperate substitutions needed to mend defensive holes. But it all added to the tremendous excitement. Not often do matches in the Northern hemisphere present 70 points games, but the 2017/18 expanded Guinness Pro14 has been one of the highest scoring ever.

Fittingly, even with Nacewa removed due to injury, that Jonny Sexton was a measure of the strength shown by Leinster Rugby. His season is becoming more fairytale as the calendar continues. He now carries a first ever double; PRO14 and Champions Cup glory.

Tadhg Furlong, left, Rob Kearney, Jonathan Sexton and Jack McGrath celebrate with the Guinness PRO14 trophy and Champions Cup at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

He told Planet Rugby “If you told me at the start of the year that you’d go unbeaten and win the Grand Slam with Ireland, and then win the European title [and Guinness Pro14], I’d have bitten your hand off.”

Head coach Leo Cullen summed it up in reports. “The last couple of weeks have been a mental and physical test for all of us. But credit the players, they’re the ones that produce the goods on the field and I thought they were exceptional.”

Leinster Rugby can now claim to be the form club in World Rugby

In seasons past, Saracens have won the Premiership/Champions Cup. Others have won their league title and the Challenge Cup. Each of those have fairly claimed to be the ‘form side’ in World Rugby.

While difficult to quantity; as Super Rugby/Currie Cup sides rarely meet, but the statistics in 2017/18 might well point to Leinster Rugby, as the supreme club side.

Even Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson could fairly agree on that, after the huge 40-32 win in front of a Pro14 final-record 46,092 crowd.

Hail Leinster Rugby!

 

“Main photo crowd”
Embed from Getty Images

LEAVE A REPLY

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.