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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 22 October, 2018
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Good afternoon and welcome to the Aviva Stadium, for the 2018 Guinness Pro14 final as Leinster — the European champions — look to complete a dream season with a first-ever Pro14 and Champions Cup double.

It has been a remarkable campaign for Leo Cullen’s side and their year can scale new, rarefied heights this evening, but standing in their way is a Scarlets side looking to become just the second team to defend their Pro12/Pro14 crown.

A view of the Guinness Pro14 trophy in the dressing room with the Leinster and Scarlets jerseys Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Wayne Pivac’s men are still hurting from the humbling they suffered at the hands of Leinster in the Champions Cup semi-final a few weeks ago, and arrive in Dublin determined to spoil the province’s party.

With the weather set fair, the Aviva Stadium resplendent in the afternoon sunshine, two teams stacked with quality and a near sell-out crowd, the 2018 decider has all the ingredients to be a classic.

Kick-off is at 6pm and stick with us for all the action as it happens.

The atmosphere is building nicely around Dublin 4 with plenty of travelling Scarlets fans making themselves heard in or around the stadium.

A view of the Aviva Stadium ahead of the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A view of the Aviva Stadium ahead of the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A view of PRO14 branding on a Leinster jersey in the dressing room Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

TEAM NEWS: Isa Nacewa has been passed fit to start what will be his final game before retirement as Leo Cullen makes four changes from last week’s semi-final win over Munster.

Johnny Sexton, Rob Kearney and Dan Leavy all return to the Leinster XV with James Lowe retained on the left wing after his man-of-the-match in the inter-pro win, while Jordan Larmour completes the back three.

Nacewa partners Garry Ringrose on the occasion of his 50th Leinster appearance in midfield with Luke McGrath partnering Sexton in the half-back pairing.

Up front, it’s the same front five that started the Champions Cup final win over Bilbao as Cullen shuffles his back row combination with Rhys Ruddock and Jack Conan preferred to Scott Fardy and Jordi Murphy.

Leinster:

15. Rob Kearney
14. Jordan Larmour
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Isa Nacewa (captain)
11. James Lowe
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Luke McGrath

1. Cian Healy
2. Sean Cronin
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Devin Toner
5. James Ryan
6. Rhys Ruddock
7. Dan Leavy
8. Jack Conan

Replacements:

16. James Tracy
17. Jack McGrath
18. Andrew Porter
19. Scott Fardy
20. Jordi Murphy
21. Nick McCarthy
22. Joey Carbery
23. Rory O’Loughlin.

TEAM NEWS: Leigh Halfpenny’s return from injury is a huge boost for the defending champions, with Wayne Pivac able to name a strong side for the final game of the 2018 campaign.

John Barclay’s injury means the Scarlets have been forced into a bit of a reshuffle in the pack with Munster-bound Tadhg Beirne shifting to number eight and Lewis Rawlins coming into the second row.

Everywhere you look, though, the Scarlets have international quality with the likes of Johnny Mcnicholl, Scott Williams and Rhys Patchell part of a devastating back line which will look to cause Leinster problems out wide.

Scarlets:

15. Leigh Halfpenny
14. Johnny Mcnicholl
13. Scott Williams
12. Hadleigh Parkes
11. Steff Evans
10. Rhys Patchell
9. Gareth Davies

1. Rob Evans
2. Ken Owens (captain)
3. Samson Lee
4. Lewis Rawlins
5. Steve Cummins
6. Aaron Shingler
7. James Davies
8. Tadhg Beirne

Replacements:

16. Ryan Elias
17. Wyn Jones
18. Werner Kruger
19. David Bulbring
20. Will Boyde
21. Jonathan Evans
22. Dan Jones
23. Tom Prydie.

The teams are here!

Wayne Pivac Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A view of the PRO14 trophy as players arrive Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Steff Evans arrives Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A view of the PRO14 trophy as players arrive Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Not long until kick-off now, but to whet your appetite further why don’t you browse our pre-match offerings, which include insight from both camps ahead of this evening’s final.

Leinster’s only defeat in Dublin to a Welsh Region since February 2015 was in last season’s semi-final, to Scarlets, at the RDS — furthermore, Scarlets have lost on all four occasions they have visited Ireland in all tournaments this season, including the Champions Cup semi-final here a few weeks ago.

Ken Owens and Isa Nacewa with Stuart Berry Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Which way do you see this one going?


Poll Results:




Ryan Bailey and Murray Kinsella with you to provide live coverage of the 2018 Guinness Pro14 final, which gets underway in 25 minutes. Both sides are in the middle of their warm-ups and the ground is filling up steadily.

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Here come the teams and we’re just about set at the Aviva! We’ve had a very light rain shower just before kick off but conditions are absolutely perfect.

Flag 2Mins

KICK OFF! Rhys Patchell gets us underway, with Rob Kearney gathering the kick off.

1Mins

1 mins – Leinster clear their lines and then Toner gets up to disrupt Ken Owens’ throw, with James Ryan completing the steal. Plenty of big early collisions out there.

2Mins

2 mins – Really bright start from Leinster as they throw it wide to Jordan Larmour, who dances in field and the blue shirts are quick to recycle possession. James Davies then steals it in midfield for the Scarlets and a dangerous grubber in behind as Kearney scrambling across, but the fullback does enough to cover.

4Mins

4 mins — Leinster enjoying all the early possession as McGrath makes the darting break down the right, and although Ken Owens shows great pace to get back and scrag the scrum-half, Scarlets are then pinged for being offside.

Flag 6Mins

6 mins — Penalty! Leinster 3-0 Scarlets (Sexton)

Sexton calls for the tee and makes no mistake with his first attempt of the day, dissecting the posts with unerring accuracy. Leinster are up and running.

8Mins

8 mins – Good response from Scarlets as they win the kick off and then move it through the hands, before hammering away at the Leinster defence with a couple of big carries.

Tadhg Furlong then pulls Rob Evans back as the Scarlets prop looked to latch onto a pop pass, and referee Stuart Berry pulls it back for a penalty in front of the posts. This should be straightforward for Leigh Halfpenny.

9Mins

9 mins — Penalty! Leinster 3-3 Scarlets (Halfpenny)

Easy as you like for the Scarlets fullback as he draws his side level.

12Mins

12 mins – Sexton tests the aerial ability of Steff Evans but some smart blocking from his team-mates allows the winger to gather comfortably, before a poor up-and-under from Rob Kearney leads to Leinster giving away another penalty, this time for offside.

13Mins

13 mins — Penalty! Leinster 3-6 Scarlets (Halfpenny)

He just doesn’t miss, does he? From just inside the Leinster half, the Lions fullback strikes it as sweet as you like to give his side the lead for the first time.

15Mins

15 mins – This one is already ebbing and flowing. Leinster look for an instant reply and Kearney superbly fields Sexton’s towering up-and-under to give the province prime attacking position. They hammer away around the fringes, before Scarlets are pinged for being offside.

16Mins

16 mins — Penalty! Leinster 6-6 Scarlets (Halfpenny)

Sexton and Halfpenny trading penalties as the former slots over his second.

18Mins

Isa Nacewa tackled by Hadleigh Parkes Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Jonathan Sexton kicks a penalty Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The two teams take to the field Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

20Mins

20 mins – The Aviva Stadium has just risen as one as Isa Nacewa limps off after just 20 minutes of his final game. The Leinster captain had been struggling with a calf problem all week and has been replaced by Rory O’Loughlin.

21Mins

21 mins – Nacewa looks distraught on the bench as he sits with a tracksuit top over his head. A sad way for a true legend to go out, but his body could give no more. O’Loughlin slots into midfield alongside Ringrose.

23Mins

23 mins – The game had gone a little flat in the last few minutes, before Tadhg Furlong produces an another almighty clear out to get Leinster on the front foot and then Scarlets are again offside, giving Sexton the chance to restore the province’s advantage.

24Mins

24 mins — Penalty! Leinster 9-6 Scarlets (Sexton)

Three from three for Sexton as he strikes this one — from just inside the 10 metre line, to the left — low and it just drops over the bar.

26Mins

26 mins – Leinster lose another restart but get away with it as a red shirt knocks on in contact. Jack Conan then makes a powerful surge from the back of the scrum, before Ryan takes it on and Kearney kicks deep into Scarlets territory.

Flag 32Mins

30 mins — TRY! Leinster 14-6 Scarlets (Toner)

It was coming, and Leinster are over after 23 phases! They exert a period of sustained pressure on the Scarlets line which all started with that Conan carry from inside his own 22. After Tadhg Furlong’s monstrous carry, Healy is stopped on the line but the blue shirts recycle and eventually Toner gets over, with Leavy and Ruddock by his side.

33Mins

33 mins – That was Leinster at their attacking best, as they upped the intensity and tempo with fierce carries from Conan and Furlong to dent holes in the Scarlets defence and then show patience and precision to go through the phases and reap the maximum reward, with Toner powering over the whitewash.

35 mins — TRY! Leinster 14-11 Scarlets (Johnny Mcnicholl)

But Scarlets hit straight back through Johnny Mcnicholl in the far corner, and the defending champions are back to within three points.

Leinster are again caught on the restart and Scarlets build phase-after-phase, with Samson Lee carrying and then Steff Evans bursting through at pace, before being stopped just short of the line.

The blue shirts scramble defensively but are unable to prevent Mcnicholl from getting it down. Halfpenny — like Sexton just did at the other end — skews the conversion attempt wide.

38Mins

Leigh Halfpenny clears under pressure from Rob Kearney and James Lowe Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Jonathan Sexton kicks a penalty Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Scarlets' fans celebrate a penalty for their side Source: James Crombie/INPHO

39Mins

39 mins – Another impressive response from Scarlets but they’re being forced into a change just before half-time, with Aaron Shingler picking up a heavy knock and Will Boyd replacing him in the back row.

40Mins

40 mins – Leinster hunting for a crucial score on the stroke of half-time. Sexton picks James Lowe out with a perfectly-executed cross-field kick and when the Kiwi winger runs through the tackle, the province eventually win a penalty, which they kick for the corner.

40Mins

40 mins – Scarlets again infringe at the breakdown, with Leinster opting for the line out again.

Flag 41Mins

40 mins — TRY! Leinster 21-11 Scarlets (Lowe)

Oh, that’s glorious! Cronin finds his man, the pack rumble forward, allowing McGrath to peel away, pop it left for Sexton, who in turn feeds Lowe to finish acrobatically in the corner. The out-half nails the touchline conversion.

Half-time! Leinster 21-11 Scarlets 

How many times this season have Leinster struck right on half-time, and they’ve crucially done it again here, with Lowe finishing with dexterity and power in this near corner after Sexton’s deft, no-look offload. The European champions lead by 10 points at the break.

Jonathan Sexton kicks a penalty Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Jordan Larmour tackles Steff Evans Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Rory O'Loughlin tackled by Ken Owens Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Scarlets are back out for the second half already, and are quickly followed by Leinster. Can the Welsh region overhaul a 10-point deficit or will Cullen’s men kill their challenge off?

41Mins

41 mins – Rory O’Loughlin has had a really good impact since coming on for Nacewa and then Larmour shows great appetite to chase a grubber kick into the corner and bundle Halfpenny into touch.

45Mins

44 mins – Leinster turning the screw. Conan eats up more yards and then Leinster are awarded the scrum, which McGrath uses as a platform to feed it out to the backs before it’s pulled back for a knock on.

45Mins

45 mins – McGrath whips it to Sexton, who in turns sends Ringrose arching through a gap but two red shirts converge and his path to the line is closed off. From there, Sexton looks to switch the angle of attack by kicking cross-field for Larmour, but Evans does well to field and avert the danger. We’re going back for a Leinster penalty.

47Mins

47 mins – Scarlets are again offside and Leinster turn down the three points for the scrum. Ryan barrels his way towards the line but the second row is stripped of the ball on the ground as the Welsh region do brilliantly to weather that storm.

51Mins

51 mins – Sexton is down and requires treatment after a high tackle from Scott Williams, but the referee lets play continue and Scarlets are looking to strike down this near side after the ball was turned over. Stuart Berry has eventually decided to review the incident after Leinster clear their lines.

51Mins

51 mins – While the officials are taking a look at that Williams tackle, Jack McGrath has replaced Cian Healy.

51Mins

51 mins – Berry decides that Williams’ tackle doesn’t warrant anything more than a penalty against him, much to the consternation of the majority inside the Aviva Stadium.

52Mins

52 mins – Sexton has dusted himself down and arrows a penalty deep into Scarlets territory, with the ball landing over Halfpenny’s head and into touch five metres out.

52Mins

52 mins — TRY! Leinster 28-11 Scarlets (Cronin)

The Leinster pack absolutely destroys Scarlets at maul time and Cronin latches off the back to crash over in the corner. Sexton nails the touchline conversion and Leinster are within touching distance now.

56Mins

James Lowe celebrates scoring his sides second try with Jonathan Sexton Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Tadhg Furlong tackled by Ken Owens Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

James Lowe celebrates scoring his sides second try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

56Mins

56 mins – Leinster’s remarkable strength in depth is underlined by the introduction of Scott Fardy for Rhys Ruddock in the back row, while Scarlets bring Werner Kruger on for Samson Lee.

Flag 59Mins

58 mins — TRY! Leinster 33-11 Scarlets (Larmour)

Oh my word, what a pick up! Larmour shows his turn of pace to chases his own kick deep into the Scarlets 22 and produces a sublime one-handed pick up to finish in the same corner as Cronin. Exceptional try!

60Mins

60 mins – Game, set and match. Stunning from Larmour, stunning from Leinster.

61Mins

61 mins – Leinster make two changes in the front row with James Tracey replacing Cronin and Furlong making way for Andrew Porter.

62Mins

62 mins — The attendance at the Aviva Stadium this afternoon is 46,092 –  and they’ve been treated to another Leinster masterclass.

Sean Cronin celebrates scoring his sides third try with Tadhg Furlong and Jordan Larmour Source: James Crombie/INPHO

64Mins

64 mins – Johnny Sexton has just received a huge ovation as he makes way for Joey Carbery. Cullen unloaded his bench now as we enter the final 15 minutes.

Flag 66Mins

65 mins — TRY! Leinster 33-18 Scarlets (Mcnicholl)

That’s some finish from Mcnicholl in the far corner, as Leinster were caught out wide after Scarlets created the overlap. Ringrose does his best to prevent the try, but the winger got it down brilliantly.

66Mins

66 mins – Jordi Murphy replaces Dan Leavy for the flanker’s final appearance for Leinster before he joins Ulster next season.

Flag 68Mins

68 mins — TRY! Leinster 40-18 Scarlets (Conan)

Joey Carbery marks his arrival with a blistering break, and an offload for the supporting McGrath, who times his pass for Conan perfectly and Leinster are under the sticks for another brilliant score.

72Mins

72 mins – Nick McCarthy is on for Luke McGrath for the final eight minutes. Leinster strolling towards victory.

76Mins

76 mins – Johnny Sexton is named man of the match, and deservedly so for another masterful performance. He’ll go to Australia with Ireland in the form of his career.

79Mins

79 mins — TRY! Leinster 40-25 Scarlets (Kruger)

A late consolation for the Scarlets as they go over under the posts.

80Mins

80 mins — TRY! Leinster 40-32 Scarlets (Mcnicholl)

Hat-trick for the Scarlets winger as the Welsh region finish with a flourish, but it’s too little, too late.

Flag

FULL-TIME! LEINSTER 40-32 SCARLETS

Leinster are the 2018 Guinness Pro14 champions

Sean Cronin celebrates scoring his sides third try  with Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner and Jack Conan Source: James Crombie/INPHO

About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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