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Leinster 19-16 Leicester

Updated: Saturday, 23 May 2009 19:31

Jamie Heaslip touches the ball down for Leinster's only try at Murrayfield
Jamie Heaslip touches the ball down for Leinster's only try at Murrayfield

Leinster have kept the Heineken Cup in Ireland with a deserved 19-16 victory over Leicester at Murrayfield.

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The rookie finalists had the better of the game at Murrayfield but were forced to stage a superb fightback after falling 16-9 behind shortly after half-time.

Ben Woods' try had given two-time champions Leicester an interval lead, but Jamie Heaslip's brilliant score helped level matters before the excellent Johnny Sexton sealed victory with a long-range penalty.

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Sexton also dropped a monster drop-goal, Brian O'Driscoll dropped a goal as well, while Julien Dupuy kicked the Tigers' other points.

History was on the minds of both teams before the game.
The Tigers were looking to join Toulouse as the most successful side in the competition's 14 years by clinching their third European title, while Leinster were seeking their maiden triumph.

Both upset the odds by dumping out Cardiff and Munster in two incredible semi-finals and the bookies were unable to separate them before kick-off.

But as well as boasting superior big-game experience, Leicester were also the form side, with last weekend's nervy Guinness Premiership final win their 12th victory in 13 games.

Yet Leinster had the edge in terms of support, with the Murrayfield stands overwhelmed by a sea of blue flags and replica shirts.

The controlled ferocity which had seen off Munster was in evidence from the kick-off but some ill-disciplined play from Shane Jennings gave Leicester the first kickable penalty.

However, Dupuy was off-target from 50 metres. It was Leinster who got the first points on the board when a chip and chase from Luke Fitzgerald saw the ball spilled, eventually leading to a smart drop-goal from O'Driscoll.

But the Tigers immediately roared back, twice breaking the gain line before being awarded a penalty Dupuy kicked easily.
Leicester were proving more than a match for their opponents at the breakdown but fell behind again when Sexton landed a drop-goal from inside his own half.

It could have been worse for the Tigers moments later but for some heroic last-ditch defending under their own posts off the back of a well-worked Leinster line-out.

Suddenly, Leicester could not get the ball and after a succession of phases from their opponents, they eventually conceded a penalty inside their own 22. Sexton converted.

The fly-half was only playing because of an injury to Felipe Contepomi but the 23-year-old was providing a kicking masterclass.

Leicester, meanwhile, were struggling to retain possession and lost number eight Jordan Crane to injury before the half-hour.
Louis Deacon came on and that prompted an immediate upturn in the Tigers' fortunes, with Leinster prop Stan Wright sin-binned for an illegal tackle on Sam Vesty. Dupuy kicked the penalty.

The Irish side sacrificed Shane Jennings for Ronan McCormack.
Leicester used all their experience to make the extra man tell two minutes before the interval.

Their most sustained spell of possession of the half eventually saw Woods burst clear and retain enough momentum to touch down. Dupuy converted.

Leicester stretched their lead to seven points shortly after the break when Cian Healy infringed and Dupuy kicked another penalty, before Tigers captain Geordan Murphy was withdrawn for Matt Smith.

Leinster stopped the rot in superb fashion, putting together 11 phases of possession to break the will of their opponents, with Heaslip eventually stretching over. Sexton converted and it was suddenly 16-16.

Moments later in this topsy-turvy game, the fly-half had the chance to boot his side back in front with a 42-metre penalty but he scuffed his effort.

Leicester introduced Julian White for Martin Castrogiovanni and Benjamin Kayser for George Chuter in the front row, while Leinster withdrew hooker Bernard Jackman for John Fogarty.

On the hour mark, the Tigers brought on Lewis Moody for Woods.
There was a brief scare for the Lions when the talismanic O'Driscoll went down injured and, although he was soon back on his feet, he continued to look in some discomfort.

After such an intense hour, both sides began to tire, with play concentrated in the middle third of the field.
But when Leicester infringed at the breakdown 30 metres from goal, Sexton ended the stalemate with his second successful penalty of the afternoon.

Leinster were further encouraged by some uncharacteristic errors from their opponents.

With time running out, Leicester threw on Harry Ellis for Dupuy but to no avail as their opponents saw out a nervy final 10 minutes.

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