Leinster were crowned European champions for the first time today after edging a thrilling Heineken Cup final against Leicester, 19-16.
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.
Sexton also struck a monster drop-goal, Brian O’Driscoll dropped a goal, while Julien Dupuy kicked the Tigers’ other points.
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.
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.
Leicester, struggling to retain possession, 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.
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after the break when Cian Healy infringed and Dupuy kicked another penalty, before Tigers captain Geordan Murphy was withdrawn for Matt Smith.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 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.
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.
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.