Leinster 33-22 Northampton, Heineken Cup Final, May 21
O'Driscoll salutes Sexton
May 21, 2011
Jonny Sexton celebrates his first try in Saturday's win over Northampton at the Millennium Stadium © Getty Images
Brian O'Driscoll revealed after Leinster's stunning Heineken Cup final success that some inspirational words from fly-half Jonathan Sexton had been the catalyst for the province's incredible 33-22 come-from-behind win over Northampton Saints.
Leinster went into the game in Cardiff as the favourites but they were left shell-shocked after an opening half which Northampton completely dominated, the Saints reaching the interval 22-6 ahead courtesy of tries from Phil Dowson, Ben Foden and Dylan Hartley, and seven points from the boot of Stephen Myler.
However, Leinster came roaring back in the second half, with Sexton turning the game on its head with a quick-fire brace of tries before lock Nathan Hines crossed to put the game beyond the Saints. O'Driscoll explained after the game that the province's remarkable comeback owed nearly everything to their young fly-half.
"We had some choice words at half-time," he told Sky Sports. "We knew if we could hold on to the ball we had them in trouble. There were some inspirational words from Jonathan at half-time which picked us up; he was a man possessed. He said this game would be remembered if we came back and we will remember this for a long time.
"We knew we had that (second-half display) in us. We played against a tough opposition but we knew if we held on to the ball we knew we could create chances."
Sexton downplayed the significance of his words during the break but admitted that he did bring up Liverpool's equally sensational comeback in the 2005 Champions League final.
"We were shell-shocked and we needed half-time. We regrouped," he said. "I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to sport and I said that we see in sport that teams can come back like Liverpool a few years ago. Stuff like this happens. We had to believe and we took our chances."
Meanwhile, Saints boss Jim Mallinder felt that fatigue had been the determining factor in his side's second-half collapse.
"We were tired, you could tell at half-time," he said. "It was just a case of telling the lads to dig in for just 40 more minutes but the long season took its toll in the end. It was a full on game, it was very fast and credit to all the players involved."
Mallinder explained that he had been left with no other option to withdraw his captain, Dylan Hartley, and another key performer in the shape of Soane Tonga'uhia in the final quarter because they simply had nothing else left to give.
"It was because they were exhausted," he said. "They were shot. It would have been nice not to have had a full-on game last week (against Leicester), and Leinster managed to take their five best players off in their game (against Ulster). We could not do that against Leicester. But we will come back stronger. We have always improved and we have said, in the huddle at the end, let's see if we can win it next time."
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