Leinster will meet Ulster in an all-Ireland Heineken Cup decider after defeating Clermont Auvergne in a tense semi-final yesterday.
The defending champions survived a late onslaught from Clermont Auvergne during which Wesley Fofana dramatically had a try ruled out for the French side.
Joe Schmidt’s side started the game well but with their lineout malfunctioning, four penalties from Brock James saw the French challengers lead 12-6 at half-time.
Yet Leinster got the perfect start to the second half when Brian O’Driscoll and Rob Kearney combined to set up Cian Healy for a 42nd-minute try. A stunning Kearney drop goal extended Leinster’s lead before James replied.
Jonathan Sexton’s third penalty put Leinster 19-15 in front before Clermont centre Fofana was inches away from scoring the match-winning try.
This pulsating semi-final finished with Clermont pounding the Leinster line but the Irish side showed immense resilience to hold on and set up a meeting with Ulster at Twickenham on May 19.
Reflecting on reaching another Heineken Cup decider in his second year in charge, coach Joe Schmidt said that out-half Sexton had made a key suggestion at half-time.
“Jonny Sexton spoke of course and called the play that we did right after half-time,” said Schmidt. “He said ‘let’s do this play, let’s get it dead right and we’ll score from it’.
“So anyone who doubted at half-time was pretty quickly in full agreement with Jonny when he knocked over the conversion (of Cian Healy’s try) as well to give us a one-point lead.
“We also talked about the scrum and the lineout, making sure that we got the ball from those set phases, because we just felt if we could get some good quality we could put them under pressure, like we had done in the first 15 or 20 minutes.”