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Dublin: 6 °C Sunday 16 December, 2018


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Good afternoon and welcome along to our live coverage of the 2018 Champions Cup final between Leinster and Racing 92, as the province seek a fourth European crown in Bilbao.

Leo Cullen’s side have been the team to beat in this year’s competition, storming through the pool stages and then swatting both Saracens and Scarlets aside to book their place in the decider at the San Mames Stadium.

Racing, meanwhile, have been building a serious head of steam and clinically dispatched Munster in the semi-final, to set up a mouth-watering clash with the three-time winners.

It’s six years since Leinster lasted reigned supreme in Europe but this new wave have been relentless in their pursuit of a fourth star — can they now complete the job and make history in Spain?

Kick off is at 4.45pm Irish time and we’ll bring you all the action as it happens.

TEAM NEWS: Leo Cullen has made two changes to his side from the semi-final win over Scarlets, with Luke McGrath returning to the side in place of Jamison Gibson-Park and Jordan Larmour handed a start to complete a remarkable breakthrough season for the 20-year-old.

However, there are concerns over McGrath’s fitness and Leinster aren’t prepared to take a risk so have named Gibson-Park among the replacements, meaning there is no place for Kiwi James Lowe under the non-EU player regulations.

Fergus McFadden misses out through injury but otherwise, it’s as you were for Leinster.


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

1. Cian Healy
2. Seán Cronin
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Devin Toner
5. James Ryan
6. Scott Fardy
7. Dan Leavy
8. Jordi Murphy


16. James Tracy
17. Jack McGrath
18. Andrew Porter
19. Rhys Ruddock
20. Jack Conan
21. Jamison Gibson-Park
22. Joey Carbery
23. Rory O’Loughlin

TEAM NEWS: As for Racing, the French side have made just the one enforced change from the defeat of Munster in Bordeaux, but it is a significant one with Maxime Machenaud injured and Teddy Iribaren starting at nine.

The big news today is that Dan Carter will play no part after being ruled out through injury and Rémi Talés replaces him on the bench.

South African Pat Lambie is in the pivot position while Donnacha Ryan starts in the second row.

Racing 92:

15. Louis Dupichot
14. Teddy Thomas
13. Virimi Vakatawa
12. Henry Chavancy
11. Marc Andreu
10. Pat Lambie
9. Teddy Iribaren

1. Eddy Ben Arous
2. Camille Chat
3. Cedate Gomes Sa
4. Donnacha Ryan
5. Leone Nakarawa
6. Wenceslas Lauret
7. Bernard Le Roux
8. Yannick Nyanga (captain)


16. Ole Avei
17. Vasil Kakovin
18. Census Johnston
19. Boris Palu
20. Baptiste Chouzenoux
21. Antoine Gibert
22. Rémi Talés
23. Joe Rokocoko

The42′s own Murray Kinsella is at San Mamés and the atmosphere is well and truly building! Follow him on Twitter @Murray_Kinsella for more updates throughout the evening.

The atmosphere is building ahead of kick off!

A general view of a Leinster jersey and European Rugby Champions Cup badge before the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Leo Cullen arrives Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

James Hughes and Darragh Moran Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Anthony Tuitavake and Chris Masoe with Isa Nacewa Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Which way do you see this one going?

Poll Results:

Not long to go now, but just to further whet your appetite, why don’t you browse our pre-match offerings:

How are the nerves, Leinster fans?

It’s lashing down in Bilbao as the teams prepare to enter this cauldron. Here we go!


1 mins – ‘Good to go, Johnny,’ says Wayne Barnes, and the 2018 Champions Cup final is up and running. Teddy Iribaren with a good early settler as he finds a really good touch on the far side, and then Garry Ringrose is pinged for a high tackle on Vakatawa.


2 mins — Huge blow for Racing as Pat Lambie is in real trouble here after taking the ball into contact, and the out-half is being forced off. Remi Tales, who was a late call-up on the bench for the injured Dan Carter, is on after two minutes.


3 mins — Penalty! Leinster 0-3 Racing 92 (Iribaren)

With Lambie off the pitch, the young scrum-half takes over the kicking duties and nails his first attempt after Ringrose’s high tackle.


5 mins – Teddy Irabaren has started really well in Machenaud’s absence and finds another fine touch to relieve the pressure on his defence. Leinster have yet to really get into the contest.


7 mins — Solid Leinster scrum after a Racing pass goes forward but then Donnacha Ryan shows all his lineout prowess as h gets up above Devin Toner and wins the turnover penalty. The province are under all the early pressure.


11 mins – Brilliant work from Johnny Sexton after Racing rumbled on into the Leinster 22. The out-half executed the choke-tackle on Chavancy to perfection and then he was hit high. Nervy.


14 mins — Close! Leinster unveil a delightful set-piece move from the lineout on this near side, as Nacewa powers through although Thomas intercepts, we’re going back for a penalty advantage. Sexton has called for the tee.


15 mins — Penalty! Leinster 3-3 Racing 92 (Sexton)

That was Leinster at their absolute best as they cut the Racing defence apart with one of their trademark strike moves, before Sexton takes the points from in front of the posts. We’re level in Bilbao.


18 mins – Leinster appeared to have weathered that initial Racing storm and have hit back impressively. Both sides making a couple of errors out there, but that’s understandable given the occasion. 18 minutes gone at the San Mames Stadium.


20 mins – Possession changing hands regularly, and now Racing have won a penalty in the Leinster 22 after Fardy is penalised at the lineout.


21 mins — Penalty! Leinster 3-6 Racing 92 (Iribaren)

Fardy was pinged for collapsing the maul and Iribaren makes no mistake from the tee to restore Racing’s slender advantage. The French side are denying Leinster possession and no side has asked questions of Cullen’s men like this so far this campaign. It’s tense.


24 mins – Leinster struggling to gain a foothold but Sexton looks to put the Racing defence under pressure with an up-and-under, which Louis Dupichot fails to deal with — but again Iribaren steps up to the mark with a booming clearing kick off that left boot of his.


26 mins – Frustration for Leinster as they hammer away for several phases to no avail, after the move breaks down for a neck roll by Fardy. Racing have turned up, anyway.


27 mins – Former Leinster winger Shane Horgan is on duty for Sky Sports, saying the province ‘have not had it their way at the breakdown and are having to put more resources in then they are used too.’ Almost half an hour gone.

28 mins – Kearney shows his aerial ability again with a superb take from Sexton’s up-and-under and then there’s a nasty head-on-head clash between Henshaw and Dupichot in midfield. Both players are down and Barnes has stopped play.


30 mins — That was a sickening clash of heads and Dupichot is heading off for a HIA, with Henshaw okay to stay on. Joe Rokocoko is on for Racing.


32 mins – We restart with a Leinster scrum and the province go down the blindside through Nacewa, before James Ryan makes yards with a meaty carry. Racing are offside and it’s a Leinster penalty, which Sexton takes quickly and then Leavy is penalised for not releasing. That’s a big momentum shifter.


33 mins – The ref mic picked up Sexton and Barnes there — Sexton tried to alert Barnes to the fact that Racing weren’t back 10, and took the quick tap but Barnes didn’t hear him, and then Leinster were pinged for not releasing yards from the Racing line. A huge moment as we head towards the break.


35 mins – It’s on a knife-edge. Leinster are awarded a free kick and Sexton again taps before launching a kick up towards halfway. Kearney attempts to snatch possession in the air but knocks on and we’ll have another reset. Five minutes until half-time.


36 mins – Louis Dupichot is back on after that previous clash of heads with Henshaw, and in that last passage of play the Leinster centre is tackled high and it’s another Leinster penalty.


37 mins – Poor discipline from Racing and Nakarawa is very fortunate to avoid a yellow there as he slapped it down when Leinster looked to pounce.

“Wasn’t a clean line-break,” Wayne Barnes says, and it’s just a penalty.

That was a cast iron yellow card!


39 mins — Penalty! Leinster 6-6 Racing 92 (Sexton)

Anyway, Sexton steps up and dissects the posts to draw his side level again.


Half-time! Leinster 6-6 Racing 92

An almighty arm-wrestle so far. It’s ferocious, intense and absorbing. We’re all-square in Bilbao.

Here we go.


41 mins – Leinster looking to start on the front foot. Toner collects the kick off and after McGrath’s kick, the province spread it wide but Nacewa kicks it out on the full.


42 mins — Racing asking all sorts of questions of the Leinster defence but the blue wall stands firm over 20 energy-sapping phases. With a penalty advantage, the French side look to spread it wide but Nacewa makes a try-saving tackle. We’re going back for that penalty.


44 mins — Penalty! Leinster 6-9 Racing 92 (Iribaren)

Really strong defence from Leinster but they fall behind again as Iribaren slots over his third penalty.


46 mins — And on we go. Kearney runs a clearing kick back and then Racing are offside. Barnes then marches forward 10 metres after a bit of backchat and Sexton eventually decides to go for the posts from halfway.


48 mins – Sexton appears to lose his footing as he attempted to convert that long-range penalty and it was a horrible effort off the tee. From the restart, Nacewa then compounds things by slicing another one out on the full.


51 mins – Racing are so, so aggressive in defence and are up incredibly quickly, denying Leinster time and space and forcing the blue shirts to make silly errors. On this occasion, however, Barnes says Fardy has been tackled off the ball and Sexton has called for the tee again.


53 mins — Penalty! Leinster 9-9 Racing 92 (Sexton)

No mistake this time. And breathe.


This is incredibly tense already. 25 minutes remaining.

Jonathan Sexton misses a penalty Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO


55 mins – Racing have made a couple of changes, and then concede another penalty on halfway after Leinster steal a lineout on the far side. It looks like Sexton is going for this as well…


55 mins – Aaagh. Sexton strikes this one well but he just pushes it to the right and the flags stay down. It remains all-square.


56 mins — Jack McGrath is on for Cian Healy.


58 mins – James Ryan has been immense again — what’s new? — and he forces the mistake and Leinster have the scrum inside the Racing 22.


59 mins – The travelling Leinster fans are doing their best to raise the noise levels inside the stadium with an almighty rendition of ‘Come on you boys in blue’.


60 mins – Changes for Leinster. Tracy, Conan and Gibson-Park all on for the final 20 minutes. It’s going down to the wire in Bilbao.


63 mins – A comedy of errors there as play breaks down again, before Sexton goes down and calls for treatment. The out-half is back up and carries on, as Gibson-Park has to be alert to get across and call an important mark.


63 mins – The standard of this final really has slipped with basic errors a common thread throughout. Leinster are then penalised for a high tackle — Leavy was the guilty party — and the impressive Teddy Iribaren has the chance to restore Racing’s lead.


64 mins – But the scrum-half misses from halfway! And breathe.


65 mins – Cullen makes another change with Andrew Porter on for Furlong. How are those finger nails?


66 mins – HUGE MOMENT! Racing enjoy a period of sustained territory yards from the Leinster line — over 15 phases — but Leavy steals it on the ground and Gibson-Park hacks it clear.


68 mins – But back come Racing. Another high tackle and the French outfit go to their lineout maul to win a penalty, which should suit the left-footed Iribaren.


69 mins — Penalty! Leinster 9-12 Racing 92 (Iribaren)

Porter conceded that penalty and Leinster are behind again. 10 minutes remaining.


71 mins – Leinster need to dig deep now. They work it wide and Fardy carries hard, before Racing are pinged for being offside again! Nacewa is going for the posts…


72 mins — Leinster 12-12 Racing 92 (Nacewa)

Oh, Isa you beauty! Leinster hit back straight away as the captain takes over the kicking duties from Sexton and makes no mistake.


75 mins — Racing look exhausted and that’s a bad tackle by Vakatawa on Kearney, with Sexton now kicking deep into French territory….only for Racing to steal it back.


75 mins – Christ, this is tense.


77 mins – Where do we start? Thomas runs it into touch and Leinster power up the middle off the set-piece, with Racing then pinged for being offside! Leinster have a penalty in front of the posts!!

Flag 78Mins

78 mins — Penalty! Leinster 15-12 Racing 92 (Nacewa)

He gets it! Leinster lead for the first time and we’ve got less than two minutes left.


80 mins – Time is up in Bilbao, but here come Racing. They’re hammering away and have moved within drop-goal territory. Remi Tales is in the pocket…this is it!

Flag 80Mins


Oh my word, what drama. Tales’ drop-goal effort is off-target and Leinster have snatched victory at the death. What a moment for Leo Cullen and his side, what scenes in Bilbao!

James Ryan has been named man of the match for another immense performance.

James Ryan and Donnacha Ryan compete in the line out Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“What a game, Racing are a quality side and it went down to the wire,” he told Sky Sports.

“We made it hard for ourselves but we got the win and that is all that matters. The line speed and the pressure they brought was unbelievable.We  all worked our socks off out there – it was our toughest match of the season and just unbelievable to win.”

About the author:

Ryan Bailey


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