Leinster head coach Leo Cullen admitted the outcome of the Heineken Champions Cup final "probably" hinged on the period either side of half-time when the reigning champions relinquished their ten-point lead and failed to restore it after the interval. 

Cullen's team led 10-0 as the clock ticked past 38 minutes in the first half but an Owen Farrell penalty, created by a shuddering George Kruis tackle on Johnny Sexton, reduced to deficit to seven points. And then Leinster failed to put the ball dead with the clock in the red, conceding a penalty from which Saracens built an equalising score. 

A period of intense Leinster pressure early in the third quarter failed to yield a score and thereafter Saracens took control, with Billy Vunipola's 67th minute try the decisive score

Cullen was quick to stress that multiple factors contributed to the result but acknowledged that Leinster's inability to extend and maintain their lead in the first half was key. 

"We're very gutted that we just couldn't do that bit better," Cullen told RTE Sport. 

"We definitely had chances but couldn't quite nail home that advantage when Itoje was in the bin. 

"And at the start of the second half, we had some chances again and couldn't quite finish them. And when Sarries get their noses in front, they're a hard team to slow down. 

"Everyone will talk about the period either side of half-time, one from a defensive point of view trying to manage that period so we go into half-time in front. Then in the second half, where we had some chances as well. It probably hinged on those moments of the game. But there's lots of other parts to it as well.

The scene at full-time

"We know how difficult it is when Sarries have a lead because we've seen on numerous occasions that they really strangle teams. You can see how strong they were defensively. They've a huge team and ultimately we couldn't break them down in the second half.

"The support that we've had here has been unbelievable. We're just gutted we couldn't get a more positive outcome."

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall described his side's second half performance as "extraordinary", saying it was a tall order to overturn a 10-point deficit against a side like Leinster. 

"It was an extraordinary second half performance really by us," he told RTE Sport. "We weren't miles away in the first half. But Leinster, when they go ten points up, they're such a quality side, it's going to be very hard to come back from, especially when Maro got sin-binned.

"So, to finish the first half the way we finished it and play the way we played the second half against a really quality side. We're so chuffed. 

"They've played together for a long time. There's a lot of cohesion. They've been through a lot, good and bad, and you can see what they meant to each other today."