Nacewa gets the party started in Bilbao
Mary Hannigan's TV View: Nerves tested but Leinster get the job done the hard way
Leinster’s Isa Nacewa and Jordi Murphy lift the Champions Cup trophy. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
If you’re of the rugby faith and your twin Gods are Leinster and Ireland, then at this point you’re perched on a cloud numbered nine floating just above the moon. You’ve had a highly reasonable couple of months.
You’re not quite in James Ryan territory, and unless you’re roughly 12 months old, you probably do recall the days when Leinster and Ireland occasionally lost. James, of course, still has no experience of defeat in either the green or blue senior shirts, a fact that leaves Shane Horgan simply flummoxed. “But I’m afraid it can only go downhill from here,” he said on Sky, which wasn’t an entirely positive way of looking at it.
But anyway, while your faith in Leinster might never have been tested in Bilbao, them having demonstrated to you that they are more than capable of digging themselves out of any hole, your nerves most certainly were. Not least that moment the ball left Remi Tales’ foot after the clock had turned red.
“That is a pain that will live with him for the rest of his life,” said our BT Sport commentator Nick Mullins when the ball came closer to hitting the corner flag than dissecting the posts. “It will give him nightmares for years - DECADES! - to come,” said Craig Doyle, far too enthusiastically. Craig? Leave the lad alone.
Incidentally, we were presented with an impossible choice, whether to watch the final on Sky or BT. Although aggrieved Irish cricket fans probably skedaddled to BT en masse, still carrying some lingering ill will towards Sky from earlier in the morning when they switched Ireland’s first ever test match to their red button barely half an hour after it started.
And unless you’re on the Sky platform, all the red button on your remote control does is turn your telly off. So these Irish cricket fans were left watching the Indian Premier League clash between Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders in Mohali, rather than Ireland v Pakistan in Malahide. That funny smell you get is the smoke from Sky Ireland’s switchboard.
By boycotting Sky for the Champions Cup final, though, you would have missed out on Scott Quinnell’s dulcet tones. Several Leinster supporters, including Adam Leavy (Dan’s brother) and Mark Ryan (James’ twin), failed to find a way around him when he was loitering with intent and armed with a microphone outside the stadium. A microphone he still doesn’t really need. “HAS THE PAAAAAATY ALREADY STAAAAAAH-TED,” he asked a few of them before they took themselves and their perforated eardrums in to their seats.
Back inside, our pundits, on both channels, adding up to roughly 84 per cent of retired rugby internationals (Shane, Brian O’Driscoll, Lawrence Dallaglio, Austin Healy, Ben Kay, Martin Bayfield, Will Greenwood, Jamie Roberts. ) were waxing lyrical about Leinster, Will describing Johnny Sexton as both a chess grandmaster and a bullfighter, which is the mother of all mixed breeds.
There was a lot of faith in Leinster’s ability to seal the deal, but they began the game a little shell-shocked, possibly as a result of see Racing’s Donnacha Ryan take to the pitch wearing a beret. All his team-mates did as well, but Donnacha stood out, not looking all that comfortable either, like he half expected them to next drape a string of onions around his neck. He didn’t remember that being in his contract when he signed up.
A quick flick over to the golf on hearing Tiger was ripping it up at The Players Championship, back again and Nick is telling us it’s “Leinster 6, Racing 92 . . .”. And you’re thinking, ‘Jesus, how did they score so many tries in 30 seconds?’ Seasoned Champions Cup watchers would, of course, be rolling their eyes at you.
By then, Racing’s Pat Lambie was forced to depart the scene. “It looks like a medial ligament tear,” O’Driscoll told us, “whether they can strap him up and get him back on, we’ll see.” This reinforced the sense that rugby persons are quite tough, a medial ligament tear in any other code would result in an ambulance being called, not the possibility of a return to the fray.
But Pat didn’t return, although the Racing bench wasn’t short of options, Nick reminding us that Ben Tameifuna, “who is the size of several fridge freezers”, couldn’t even get on it.
Half-time and Racing were leading 6-6. Well, in terms of having the edge in the pushing and shoving, according to our pundits.
Second half. A try-free zone. 9-6 for Racing. 9-9. 12-9 Racing. 12-12. By now you’d be tempted to press the red button as a stress-reliever.
But. Penalty Leinster. Well done you Isa Nacewa. Wait. Drop goal attempt. Poor lad. Game over.
And when Nacewa spoke to BT’s Sarra Elgan Rees it was like it had just been a marginally tricky day at the office. Cool out. Winning is a habit.
Leo Cullen was almost apologetic. “It wasn’t the prettiest of games,” he said, “it was pretty painful viewing for our supporters, I’d say.” The champagne would have numbed that pain, though. THE PAAAAAATY HAD STAAAAAAH-TED.