TV View: Rollercoaster of emotion ends on a low note for Leinster once again

Talk of refocusing on the URC campaign rang hollow after a third straight Champions Cup final defeat

Ah stop. You know, there’s a lot to be said for just banning sport. While occasionally it can bring joy, more often than not it just inflicts pain. And torment, agony, grief, despair and such like. “This,” said Donal Lenihan of Leinster’s latest Champions Cup trauma, “is going to be even worse than the last two”. Caelan Doris confirmed as much by the manner in which he glared at the sky over London when it was all over, like he was asking the rugby gods, ‘are you having a laugh?’

Leo Cullen heroically tried to turn his focus to Friday’s URC meeting Connacht when he spoke with Clare MacNamara immediately after the game, but even he chuckled lightly. In his heart, you suspected, that would be akin to comforting his players by telling them to forget the Champions League, they still had the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to play for.

Your greatest fear in post-match chats like this is that the interviewer will say, ‘yes, you lost – and actually threw it away – but you contributed to a marvellous occasion that was fabulous for the neutrals and a great advertisement for the game’. In fairness to Clare she desisted from saying anything of the kind. Because while this was, as Jacqui Hurley put it, “the wildest final of all time”, you can be certain that Leo would have preferred to have won 3-0 with a scruffy penalty, leaving the neutrals feeling like they’d just watched 80 minutes of Johnstone’s Paint drying, rather than having witnessed a bit of an epic.

Fiona Coghlan forecast that “it could be a game for the ages”, and she wasn’t far off. A measure of the rollercoaster-ish nature of the contest was Donal’s co-commentary.


According to the interweb, the human voice can range from 20 to 125 decibels, from a whisper to a scream. Donal measured roughly two to 815 on that scale during the course of the game. The two came in or around the time Toulouse went 10 points up in extra-time, the 815 when Josh van der Flier scored a try and narrowed the French shower’s lead to three points. “The drama in this game is off the charts,” he gasped.

Confidence levels in the RTÉ studio had been a bit uppy-downy prematch, Fiona, Jamie Heaslip and Stephen Ferris kind of talking themselves out of their initial displays of hopeful-ish-ness. “It just feels like this should be Leinster’s day ... but we’ve said that a few times before”, said Stephen, the belief draining out of him.

Jacqui didn’t help. Come the end of the day, would Leinster be “nearly men, chokers or champions”, she wondered. “They can become one of the greatest of all time – or perennial losers,” she added. So, no pressure.

Before the game, RTÉ had asked Tadhg Furlong what he had learned from the last two Champions Cup finals. “Don’t lose,” he said. As learnings go, that’s hard to top. But for a fifth star, Leinster needed, well, a five-star performance, and in that first half, it was in or around a two.

Half-time, Toulouse 9-6 up. “Not a single try yet but who cares, it’s been riveting,” said Donal (hitting around 650 decibels). “Now is their time,” he hollered on a few occasions as Leinster applied the pressure in the second half, after which, on each occasion, they were turned over. Antoine Dupont was their tormentor, in attack and defence, which will prompt us to make a bold prediction: this lad has a future in the game.

Ten minutes to go, 12-12. Excruciating. Toulouse try? Or did Jordan Larmour succeed in putting Matthis Lebel’s foot in to touch?

Bernard Jackman: “His left leg is fine, it’s his right leg.”

Donal: “No, it’s the left leg – no, the right leg.”

Bernard: “Yeah, the right leg.”

Donal: “How many legs has he got?”

No try. Leinster lived. But penalty Toulouse, 15-12. Penalty Leinster, 15-15. And then Ciarán Frawley’s drop goal attempt in the final minute. “He’d have been anointed in Dublin if that had gone over,” said Donal, and Skerries would have been renamed Frawleytown.

Extra-time. A man down, a man up, “everything is in Leinster’s favour to take this,” said Jamie at the break. Come the end of proceedings, much like all his fellow Leinster faithful, he was nigh on lost for words. And he didn’t want to hear any URC “we go again” chat. “I think they just have to go and have a beer and decompress,” he said. If they were sharing a London hotel with Manchester City, that would have been the bluest blue bar in Europe. Sport? Ban it.