Leinster Rugby captain Johnny Sexton believes his side could have made better decisions at key moments in their 20-10 loss to Saracens in the Heineken Champions Cup Final at St James’ Park on Saturday.
Prop Tadhg Furlong scored Leinster’s only try as Saracens overpowered the defending champions to lift a third European Cup title of their own – but Sexton admitted there were times when Leinster could have taken alternative options.
The Ireland fly-half said: “Obviously, when you kick the ball towards the Saracens 22, you don’t then want to concede a penalty and find yourself defending a 22-metre line-out.
“Your decisions are as good as they are in hindsight. We made some ballsy decisions out on the park. When we took the scrum instead of three points, it paid off, because we scored a try.
“On the other hand, our decision to kick and cough up a 10-3 lead before half-time was not so good. That period just before and after half-time – where we had two or three chances to score but didn’t take advantage – was crucial in the game.”
This was the moment that turned the tide for @Saracens 👊
After a strong first-half Leinster were looking to re-take the lead…
Liam Williams said NO!pic.twitter.com/4hKe4q57Xn
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) May 11, 2019
As well as the attritional nature of the match, Leinster’s woes were compounded on 58 minutes, when flanker Scott Fardy was shown a yellow card, leaving Leo Cullen’s side down to 14 men – and opening the door for Saracens.
Sexton added: “When you go down to 14 men against Saracens, it is very difficult and they won the battles which counted. I felt the moment just before half-time and the moments after half-time – where we didn’t capitalise on some good try-scoring opportunities – is where I feel this was lost.
“The small margins were won before and after half-time, and there are things in hindsight we would love to change, but we can’t do so.
“It was a ferocious match, it was Test-match stuff, and I am incredibly proud of every one of us. We never backed down, but Saracens did what they do best, even though we weren’t missing tackles. They kept pressing us back and steamrolled up at times.”