Leinster Rugby completed a historic double on Saturday after defeating Scarlets 40-32 in the Guinness PRO14 final at the Aviva Stadium – just a fortnight after lifting the European Rugby Champions Cup in Bilbao.
The Irish province became the first team to win the European Cup and PRO14 in the same season after their dramatic 15-12 victory over Racing 92 at the San Mamés Stadium in Bilbao.
It was also a second victory over the Welsh region at the Aviva Stadium in as many months, after defeating them 38-16 in this season’s Champions Cup semi-final.
Leinster captain Isa Nacewa’s final match for the Irish province ended prematurely after going off on 19 minutes with a calf injury.
The retiring 35-year-old utility back was the toast of Leinster fans two weeks ago in Bilbao after slotting over two penalties in the final eight minutes of the Champions Cup final to deny Racing 92 a first European success.
32-year-old fly-half Johnny Sexton – who was nominated for the 2018 EPCR European Player of the Year – presented by Turkish Airlines – kicked 13 points in the PRO14 final while Scarlets wing Johnny McNicholl scored a brilliant hat-trick.
Speaking via Leinster Rugby’s official website, head coach Leo Cullen said: “The European final in Bilbao a couple of weeks ago, the feeling at the end was incredible. Because it was so tight and only going into the lead in the 79th minute of the game.
“[It was a] huge challenge last week against Munster in the RDS and dealing with the celebrations etc, etc. To try and get our feet back on the ground this week was a challenge, but credit the players. They’re the ones that produce the goods on the field and I thought they were exceptional.
Cullen also reserved praise for the departing Nacewa – who has scored 170 points in 58 European Cup matches – after eight seasons with the Irish province.
“Seeing this guy beside me (Isa) lift the trophy at the end is probably the thing that gives me the most satisfaction,” Cullen added. “I feel a little bit like an irresponsible parent the fact that he was out there in the first place but it was hard to deny him, watching him in the last couple of weeks.
“He stepped up to kick the penalties two weeks ago (against Racing), but to see him lift the trophy again there today, nobody deserves it more. Nobody deserves it more, I am delighted for him.”