the end

'Seeing this guy lift the trophy is the thing that gives me most satisfaction'

Leinster’s captain lasted only 18 minutes but retires with the province on top of Europe.

Murray Kinsella reports from the Aviva Stadium

ISA NACEWA WAS convinced he would last more than 40 minutes of this final but his battered and bruised body gave in with less than 20 played.

Not many people could have pushed themselves as far as the retiring 35-year-old has in recent weeks.

The injuries he has been carrying as Leinster have secured a historic double? Take your pick, really.

Isa Nacewa celebrates with his four daughters Dan Sheridan / INPHO Nacewa with his daughters and Leinster's two trophies. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

So smashed up was Nacewa that he struggled to get up onto the stage afterwards to lift the Guinness Pro14 trophy.

But watching him do so gave Leinster boss Leo Cullen the greatest feeling of what have been a stunning few weeks for the province.

“Seeing this guy beside me lift the trophy at the end is probably the thing that gives me the most satisfaction,” said Cullen as he sat alongside Nacewa after the 40-32 win over the Scarlets.

“I feel a little bit like an irresponsible parent the fact that he was out there in the first place but it was hard to deny him, watching him in the last couple of weeks.

“He stepped up to kick the penalties two weeks ago [in the Champions Cup final], but to see him lift the trophy again there today, nobody deserves it more. Nobody deserves it more, I am delighted for him.”

Cullen was speaking for the entire province and virtually every rugby fan watching on as Nacewa sealed his supreme career with one final bit of silverware.

Having originally retired in 2013, Nacewa couldn’t resist the lure of Leinster and he now hangs up his boots for good having won a Champions Cup title, three Heineken Cups, a Pro12 trophy, the Challenge Cup and now the Pro14.

“I said I wanted to come back and win trophies and coming back with Johnny [Sexton] at the same time, from his little time away [with Racing],” said Nacewa this evening. / YouTube

“We were in a bit of an evolution to get to the point today, with 55 players used in this campaign and the Champions Cup, and the way we used the whole squad.

“It took longer than expected but the timing’s right, the coaches have been phenomenal in the way they’ve managed the group and managed the players.

“We learnt a lot from last year, so it wasn’t hard to come back here.”

The on-pitch ending wasn’t ideal, as Nacewa was forced off early in the commanding win over the Scarlets but he won’t get caught up on those circumstances after his team-mates got the job done.

“I blew my calf quite early. It’s not the way I envisaged it but Locko [Rory O'Loughlin] had trained well all week and he was outstanding when he came on, a massive impact again. A good day.”

A good day, indeed, and now it’s time for Nacewa to bid farewell.

“There’s a standard here at Leinster you have to live up to every day and you can’t hide from that. I’m not making that now, so it’s time for me to bow out,” he said.

Isa Nacewa lifts the trophy James Crombie / INPHO Nacewa lifts the Pro14 trophy. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“Talking to Drico during the week, we were chatting about how at some stage, physically, you know you can’t keep going.

“At times, mentally, you might get to a point where you think ‘enough is enough’.

“The Leinster standard here with the young guys coming through and the future that they’ll create for themselves if they stay humble and keep working hard is going to be pretty phenomenal to watch.

“I’ll be in the first-row seat keeping an eye on these guys.”

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