JUST AS HE did at the Millennium Stadium last May, Jonny Sexton roused the Leinster players at half-time during their 19-15 win over Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Cup semi-final.
Sexton’s positive words were matched by a stunning contribution by full-back Rob Kearney as he broke free to set up a Cian Healy try and landed a 40-metre drop goal.
The victory sets up a final against Ulster in Twickenham on 19 May.
Speaking soon after the match, and the emotional send-off the team received from travelling Leinster fans, Schmidt revealed that his out-half set Leinster’s comeback in motion at the break. He said:
Jonny Sexton spoke of course and called the play that we did right after half-time. He said let’s do this play, let’s get it dead right and we’ll score from it. So anyone who doubted at half-time was pretty quickly in full agreement with Jonny when he knocked over the conversion (of Cian Healy’s try) as well to give us a one-point lead.
“We also talked about the scrum and the lineout,” Schmidt added, “making sure that we got the ball from those set phases, because we just felt if we could get some good quality we could put them under pressure, like we had done in the first 15 or 20 minutes.”
Ulster’s Director of Rugby David Humphreys said Leinster have shown that they ‘are not only the best but also the most consistent team in Europe’.
“Whatever the final result, the prospect of an all-Ireland Heineken Cup final at Twickenham is mouth-watering for rugby fans and particularly Irish rugby fans.” He added:
Ulster and Leinster is one of the oldest rivalries in the game and on the 19th May we’ll have two teams who know each other so well, lining out for European rugby’s biggest prize.
Humphreys pointed out that Ulster’s win over Edinburgh at the Aviva was ‘ground out’ and believes the side will have to improve for the final.
“They’ll certainly be the hot favourites but we’re content with the underdogs tag,” he concluded.