Published: Sun, May 13, 2018
Sport | By

Nacewa kicks Leinster to record-equalling fourth Champions Cup victory

Nacewa kicks Leinster to record-equalling fourth Champions Cup victory

Leinster maintained their flawless run in European Champions Cup finals with a last-gasp 15-12 win over Racing 92 in Bilbao to make it a record-equalling four titles.

In between times an absorbing and brutal, if at times ugly, first half had played out in Bilbao as Leinster counteracted Iribaren's sniping with a kicking game that targeted their opponents' back three's lack of height.

Racing attempted to take the match to extra time and were able to drive the ball to the Leinster 22-metre line but the drop goal attempt of Rémi Tales fell wide to give the Irish province a record-equalling fourth European Cup.

Three penalties from Sexton had helped Leo Cullen's men keep pace with Racing throughout the game's first 70 minutes, but as it hurtled towards its final stages it was New Zealander Isa Nacewa who made all the difference.

Crucially, it was Racing who blundered when Teddy Thomas was tackled into touch, and Nacewa took full advantage of Tales' subsequent offside to claim a very hard-earned victory.

Leinster's Isa Nacewa kicks the winning penalty.

Sexton admitted that Leinster were totally thrown off their game plan by Racing 92 and had to come up with another way to win. Racing, had lost outhalf Dan Carter before the match, they were then dealt another injury blow in the opening minutes when Pat Lambie suffered a knee injury.

He would soon depart, replaced by Tales as Carter looked on from the stands while his inexperienced half-back partner, Machenaud's stand-in Teddy Iribaren was quickly into service as Leinster conceded a penalty under pressure at the breakdown. Leinster in front for the first time in the game.

Iribaren put Racing 92 in front again from the kicking tee after 21 minutes but Leinster came roaring back and levelled things up just before half-time.

The second half was a tense affair, more a case of either side making mistakes rather than who had the more skill.

Referee Wayne Barnes' whistle was far too influential for both sides' liking, the stop-start fare leading to successful place-kicks from Iribaren and Nacewa late on.

"It's frustrating because we were really close", Racing centre Henry Chavancy said after his team's second final defeat in three years.

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