Tadhg misses out
No joy on 100th Leinster appearance
What started out a momentous day for Tadhg Furlong ended in disappointment as Leinster had no answer to the ferocious power of Saracens when their drive for five was derailed on Tyneside on Saturday.
Leinster were outgunned by a ruthless Saracens on a 20-10 final scoreline in a European Cup final that made for some uncomfortable viewing as the game edged towards its final minutes.
Furlong was playing in his one hundredth game for the province and was given the honour of leading out his side for what was the most eagerly-awaited final in the history of the competition.
When the Horeswood native looks back on this game, it will be with mixed emotions, despite the fact that he drove his way over for a magnificent try, a score that helped his side into a 10-0 lead.
But the erratic ending to the first-half will come back to haunt Leinster since they coughed up a penalty, along with a converted try in additional time.
This was a period when they had several opportunities to kill the momentum of the opposition, but they chose to counter-attack instead of protecting their lead into the break.
In a game of such intensity, it was acknowledged by coach Leo Cullen that the minutes leading up to the break proved crucial, with some big calls at various stages.
Leinster's drive for five had looked likely for most of the first-half, but they will rue some errors at those key moments before the interval.
At this level it boils down to those small margins.
Leinster were 10-0 in the lead and full value for it. Maro Ijoe was in the sin-bin, with the boot of Johnny Sexton and Tadhg Furlong's close-range try doing the damage.
The clock was in the red and all Luke McGrath had to do was boot the ball into touch.
Maybe it was the frantic nature of the contest or the crowd, but McGrath elected to send the ball skywards, with the box kick falling to Saracens' advantage.
It game them a sniff and with their efficient style and swift movement, they got over in the corner for a converted try, leaving it 10-10 at the interval, with Leinster's ten-point advantage wiped out.
Saracens, with 20 unanswered points and a display of relentless physicality, had Leinster where they wanted, trapped deep inside their own territory for much of the second-half, with the rival carriers being lined up and smashed, affording little opportunity to build movement to bring them back into Sarries' danger zone.
The game was up with ten minutes remaining as the Saracens party began on the touchline.
Furlong's display was one of his best all season. Solid in a scrum that disintegrated on his substitution, his play around the pitch, getting in the big tackles and drives, and the manner in which he muscled his way over for that try, highlighted that lung-busting display at its best.
Meanwhile, Cork Constitution confirmed their league form in the recent AIL Division 1 final with a resounding victory over Clontarf.
The result brought disappointment for two Wexford players. Former Enniscorthy regular, Tony Ryan, excelled at wing-forward, putting in a huge 80-minute shift, while former Wexford Wanderers player, Brian Deeny, continued his rise when introduced as a second-half replacement.
It has been quite a season for young Deeny who was also part of the Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam-winning team.