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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 20 March, 2019

Leinster's perfect season, genius from Larmour and more Pro14 final talking points

The good days keeping rolling for the eastern province, as they thumped Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium.

Ryan Bailey reports from the Aviva Stadium 

LEINSTER COMPLETED THEIR first-ever Pro14-Champions Cup double with another emphatic victory over Scarlets this afternoon to complete a perfect season for the eastern province. You can read our match report here, and below we take a closer look at four talking points from the final.

Leinster’s dream double

Leinster players celebrate after the game Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

A remarkable achievement, from a remarkable side as Leinster augmented their Champions Cup crown with a fifth Pro14 title, their first in four years, in utterly emphatic and ruthless fashion.

A perfect season continued to scale new heights with each passing week and Leo Cullen’s men produced big performance after big performance, firmly cementing their status as the best team in Europe.

Just as they did a few weeks ago here, Leinster outclassed and overpowered Scarlets in every department and in running in five tries — each as good as the next — they ensured nothing would take the gloss off a perfect season.

The good days keep rolling for the eastern province, and how. With a record crowd of over 46,000 inside the Aviva Stadium — many of whom were wearing blue — here to witness another display brimming with quality and intensity as well as a number of superb individual performances, notably from Johnny Sexton.

After slipping up at this juncture twice previously after reigning supreme in Europe, Leinster spoke all week about their hunger to complete a historic double and, if truth be told, the end scoreline flatters Scarlets, who scored three late tries.

An extraordinary season for Irish rugby ends in brilliant, and fitting, fashion as Leinster — mighty Leinster — finish it as deserving Pro14 and Champions Cup winners.

Big moments

James Lowe scores his sides second try despite the efforts of Johnny Mcnicholl Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Big moments win big matches. Leinster have proved that all season, but their clinical edge in scoring just before and after half-time has been a huge bedrock of their success this term.

Just as they did in the quarter-final and semi-final defeats of Saracens and Scarlets in Europe, Cullen’s men pulled clear of the Welsh region here with a three-try blitz either side of the break.

After Sexton and Leigh Halfpenny traded first-half penalties, Leinster upped the ante and struck through Devin Toner before creating daylight between the sides with James Lowe’s brilliant finish in this near corner.

With the clock in the red, Leinster went into the corner and after their first maul drive was illegally collapsed, they tried again, hammering away at the Scarlets line, with Sexton showing great hands to feed the waiting Lowe, who dotted down in the corner.

The out-half then added the extras with a touchline conversion to extend Leinster’s lead at the break, before Sean Cronin and Jordan Larmour ended the game as a contest early in the second period.

Clinical, and the stuff of champions.

Sexton’s masterclass

Jonathan Sexton kicks a penalty Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

We shouldn’t really be surprised by the level of performance Sexton produces week-on-week, but after sitting out the semi-final win over Munster, the out-half was back pulling the strings here.

The ovation Sexton received after being replaced by Joey Carbery told its own story, and then when it was announced he had won the man of the match award, the roof was raised again.

Sexton was pure class, his leadership qualities evident throughout after taking over from Isa Nacewa, and his overall contribution, in addition to kicking 13 points, was immense.

Only Luke McGrath (85) had more passes than Sexton’s 19 as he passed, kicked and directed Leinster during his 64 minutes on the pitch and the 32-year-old heads to Australia for Ireland’s summer tour in the form of his career.

Genius from Larmour

Jordan Larmour celebrates his try with Garry Ringrose Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A moment of individual brilliance to cap a breakthrough season for just one of Leinster’s wunderkinder, and a stunning try which sealed another stunning victory for his side, Jordan Larmour will remember this year for a long time to come.

Starting the campaign hoping to play some games for the club’s ‘A’ side, the 20-year-old burst onto the scene and announced himself with virtuoso efforts against Ulster, Munster and now Scarlets, with Larmour ending the season with a Grand Slam, Champions Cup and Pro14 medal in his back pocket.

With Leinster turning the screw at the start of the second half, Larmour produced a piece of remarkable skill on this near touchline to turn defence into attack with a kick in behind and then an electric turn of pace.

But the best was yet to come, as the former St Andrew’s man scooped low to collect the loose ball with an outrageous one-handed pick up, before he was mobbed by his team-mates to start the title party.

A moment of quality to cap a quality season for Larmour and Leinster.

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Sexton sensational as Leinster smash Scarlets to secure historic double

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Ryan Bailey

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