HEINEKEN REVIEW/RABO PREVIEW

Well, Leinster are the 2012 Heineken Cup winners after a stunning victory over Ulster, 42-14! It turned out to be one of the most one-sided finals in recent years, with none of the drama of last year’s final, where Northampton dominated in the first half, only to see an amazing turn-around by Leinster in the second 40.  

 

The match didn’t turn out quite like I predicted! I thought Ulster would put up more of a fight but, apart from the first 20 minutes or so, they never really challenged Leinster, and the final score-line became the only real topic of debate.

 

Sean O’Brien was the star here, with some blistering runs and defensive play. He was all over the field, and much more dominant than any of his Ulster counterparts (another failed prediction of mine). It was his best game since the 2011 World Cup.

 

Leo Cullen put in a fine display, capping it off with becoming only the second captain in history to lift 3 Heineken Cups (after French legend Fabian Pelous). Leinster were superior all over the field, with both D’Arcy and O’Driscoll in top form. O’Driscoll after, amazingly, having had surgery just the week before.

 

Ulster have had an amazing season. To get to the final in itself, was a brilliant achievement. Though they were outclassed on the day, it shouldn’t take away from the tremendous improvements they’ve made in recent years. With Tommy Bowe joining the ranks next season, they should be all the stronger.

 

Leinster’s season isn’t over, of course. They face Ospreys in the final of the Rabo12, this Sunday, at the RDS (should be at Aviva). This will be Leinster’s 3rd Rabo final in a row, and their second chance to do the Rabo/Heineken double.

 

In 2010, they were beaten by Ospreys, coincidentally, in the final of the Rabo. Last year, after winning the Heineken, they lost to Munster in the Rabo final, in Thomond Park.

 

Since last September, Leinster have lost only two matches, in either the Rabo or Heineken. Amazingly, both these losses occurred against the Ospreys. In September, Ospreys crushed Leinster, 27-3. Than in March, the score was a lot closer, 23-22.  

 

Ospreys have had a difficult season, with a lot of players leaving (Tommy Bowe for example), and changes in management. They still have a lot of quality players, though. Shane Williams (in his last Ospreys game before retiring), and, in the pack, Ryan Jones, Alun Wynn-Jones, and Adam Jones (all Lions test players).

 

Leinster have suffered some injuries since the Heineken final. Both Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien are out of the first 15. Healy has a chance of starting on the bench if he passes a late fitness test. Both players put in great performances against Ulster, and will be missed.

 

If the Ulster game didn’t take too much out of them, Leinster have a real chance of becoming the first team to win both Heineken and Rabo 12 tournaments, in the same year. It would cap off an amazing run of successes for Leinster: since 2009, they’ve featured in 6 finals (3 Heineken (all won) and 3 Rabo). Could they be one of the greatest teams, ever?

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