Oval Talk

O’Driscoll inspired Leinster to Heineken Cup

Oval Talk

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Oval Talk put its feet up and laid back on Saturday hoping to enjoy a memorable Heineken Cup final - and it did not disappoint.

The Millennium Stadium was the perfect venue for Leinster and Northampton Saints, who provided one of the games of the season. The sporting cathedral is one of the most impressive stadia in Europe and has hosted some magnificent finals over the years.

And Leinster's fightback ranked highly among them.

Jonathan Sexton inspired a record-breaking second-half comeback as the Ireland international scored 28 of Leinster's points. At the break Saints were leading 22-6 and looked on course to cause something of an upset against their vastly more experienced opponents.

However, Leinster had the strength and character to haul themselves off the canvas. Nathan Hines scored Leinster's other try which proved more than enough to ensure the Irish region lifted a second European trophy in three seasons.

The odds had been stacked against the English outfit as they were facing the only team that looked like champions elect throughout the tournament. Leinster had already swept aside the likes of Leicester Tigers and Toulouse on their way to the final.

What did not help was Saints' demoralising defeat to Leicester in the Aviva Premiership play-offs last weekend. They have had a gruelling season and this was always going to be one step too far.

And whereas Northampton were feeling low, Leinster were riding high with the news that Brian O'Driscoll was cleared fit to play. When OT saw The British and Irish Lions star's name on the team sheet, it seemed certain his team would win.

O'Driscoll is one of the greatest players of his generation. He leads with inspirational words and actions. He is ferociously competitive but most importantly, when it matters, he always delivers. That is the true mark of greatness.

One can only imagine what it would have been like in Leinster's dressing room at half-time listening to O'Driscoll and captain Leo Cullen rally their team. The Irish region came out for the second half like a team possessed.

The chants of 'When the Saints go marching in' were soon muted as Sexton grabbed two tries, two penalties and three conversions. It was a remarkable performance by the fly-half who stole the headlines from Jim Malinger's men - but O'Driscoll was the true star.

O'Driscoll showed the world what he could do in 2000 when he scored a hat-trick of tries against France and he has been doing it ever since. He might have a few technical flaws and could improve his left-hand pass, but those are minor points.

He has been at the top of the game for a decade, yet his passion and determination burn as brightly as ever. Some players can change a game on the odd occasion but O'Driscoll does it on a consistent basis, inspiring those around him.

It is these qualities that make O'Driscoll Ireland's greatest ever player - and they are the reason why Leinster have a second European trophy.

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