Mary Hannigan: a splendid sporting Saturday turns out just wojous for Leinster and Katie Taylor

Leinster left on the canvas by La Rochelle, while Chantelle Cameron comes over and beats Katie Taylor

What could have been a quite splendid sporting Saturday, with a heavyweight contest at the Aviva and a super-lightweight one at the 3Arena, ended up making our weekend wojous, with Leinster left on the canvas by La Rochelle and Chantelle Cameron having the bare-faced cheek to come over here and beat our Katie.

For the second year running, then, Ronan O’Gara’s men left Leinster hearts in smithereens – the only dampener on it all for ROG was that moment when Jacqui Hurley told him he was “coming home”. “I’m coming to Dublin, I’m not coming home,” he corrected her. Belonging to the Cork faith herself, Jacqui might now be excommunicated.

If Bray folk chuckled at ROG being finicky, ROG would have had a hearty giggle at them chucking inflatable bananas at their streaming screens that evening every time a DAZN person talked of Katie coming home to Dublin.

Anyway. What made it worse was that the day had started so well. Granted, it took Leinster a while to settle, but once they scored a try on 41 seconds, the floodgates were opened, the French lads pulverised by the 11th minute when they found themselves 17-0 down.


The only contest at that stage was the battle of the similes in the commentary box. “They have started like a train,” said Hugh Cahill. “Like a house on fire,” Stephen Ferris countered.

ROG was punching the air so vigorously, he could have got a slot on the undercard over at the 3Arena

But even though 17-0 was quite a chunky lead, no one was writing La Rochelle off just yet, them being La Rochelle.

“You scaled a mountain last year,” Jerry Flannery had said to ROG pre-match. “Yeah,” he replied, “and when you get to the top of Everest you’ve got to step on the corpses – we have that killer mentality.”

By full-time, the pitch was strewn with Leinster corpses, ROG’s garçons leaving their hopes of that fifth star dead and buried all over again.

As they ate in to Leinster’s lead, their increasingly animated supporters, in those pockets of yellow in a sea of blue, sensed what was coming – including that lad holding a sign that read: “We love my mum, rugby, La Rochelle, Ireland, the girl on my right. We don’t love baked beans, Macron.” Possibly the first time that Emmanuel was coupled with baked beans.

When they took the lead for the first time in the game, with eight-ish minutes to go, all Stephen could say was “wow – wow, wow, wow”, Hugh telling us that for Leinster it was now “ALL ABOUT COMPOSURE,” having lost his.

“How are your nerves,” he asked the Leinster faithful. “Xkjgduyvlkjgd,” they replied.

Full-time, and ROG was punching the air so vigorously, he could have got a slot on the undercard over at the 3Arena. An epic triumph added to what is becoming an increasingly epic CV.

“La Rochelle were just like a constrictor snake,” said Jamie Heaslip, “getting tighter and tighter and tighter until they kind of squeezed you to death.” A word of consolation for Leinster? “No one remembers who comes second.”

And second is where Katie finished on a crushing night in front of a very exuberant crowd, most of whom lost their minds when she entered the arena, having almost removed the roof with boos when Cameron arrived. And our host Laura Woods had been telling us how “hospitable” the Irish had been.

And there followed 10 rounds that left the thousands drained. In fairness to DAZN’s Tony Bellew, he had us warned that it could finish this way, having made Cameron the slight favourite.

Of course, the first word out of Katie’s mouth after her defeat was ‘rematch’, when some of us were hoping it would be ‘retirement’

But he saluted Katie for choosing such a tough opponent when “if it was my decision I would have picked the local binman and come in on a magic carpet and had the easiest exit out of boxing possible”.

The only levity in the whole thing was provided by the judge who saw the contest as a draw. He needs to go to Specsavers, that lad.

“Time waits for no one and Katie Taylor learnt that tonight,” said Tony, reminding us that she had “less tread on her tyres” than Cameron. Mind you, he risked being on the receiving end of a Katie upper-cut when he began talking about her career in the past tense. “She should be so proud of herself, she’s inspired millions of young girls, she should be made the queen of Ireland.” (She already is, Tony).

Of course, the first word out of Katie’s mouth after her defeat was “rematch”, when some of us were hoping it would be “retirement”. But you’d be fairly sure she wouldn’t want it all to end this way. A rematch it will be. Fingers crossed it goes better than Leinster’s rematch with La Rochelle.