Leinster Rugby head coach Leo Cullen couldn’t hide his disappointment after his side were beaten 20-10 by Saracens in the Heineken Champions Cup final at St James’ Park on Saturday.
The defending champions travelled to Newcastle seeking history as the first side to claim five European titles, but were swept aside by Saracens who battled back from 10-0 down to clinch a 20-10 victory and claim a third Champions Cup success.
The 41-year-old said: “We’re obviously very gutted. We pulled up outside the ground and saw a sea of blue so we are devastated for the players and everyone who travelled to the game.
“I thought we started well and built up a lead, but everyone will talk about the period before and after half-time where Saracens started scoring points.
“If you are going to win matches on this stage, you have to take your chances. You see the size of some of these Saracens players and they strangled us in the last 20-30 minutes – they are very comfortable in defence.”
What followed was 80 minutes of pure drama ⚡
🎥 Highlights 👇 pic.twitter.com/L1JnmiWgfM
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) May 12, 2019
In a breathless encounter, Leinster were asked to make 184 tackles and only conceded six penalties along the way, but Cullen felt it was the stature of the Saracens pack which proved vital.
He added: “There is a lot of learning for us as a team. I think we knew what to expect, but Saracens are very, very big men.
“You see the size of Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje and Will Skelton and we don’t have access to too many players of that stature and they certainly did wear us down.
“You have seen it a number of times where Saracens grind teams down and it takes a toll on your squad and Saracens were the best team on the day.”