Leinster finished their season on a high when they claimed a 40-32 victory against the Scarlets in the PRO14 Final in Dublin on Saturday.
The Irish province were full value for their win as they dominated for large periods and eventually outscored the Scarlets five tries to three despite a hat-trick from Johnny McNicholl.
The result is a significant one for Leinster as it means they have succeeded in becoming the first team to achieve the double of the European Champions Cup and PRO14 titles in the same season.
The match started cautiously with Jonny Sexton and Leigh Halfpenny trading early penalties and the sides were deadlocked at 6-6 by the 16th minute before Sexton gave his side the lead when he slotted his third penalty in the 25th minute.
On the hour-mark, Leinster extended their lead when Devin Toner showed great determination and leg drive to cross for the first try of the match, from close quarters.
The Scarlets did not take long to respond though and five minutes later, McNicholl found himself in space close to the tryline before powering his way over the whitewash.
With the half drawing to a close, Leinster were on the attack inside the Scarlets’ 22. They did well to put James Lowe in the clear and he crossed in the left-hand corner for their second try – Sexton added the extras from close to the touchline to give his side a deserved 21-11 lead at half-time.
Leinster continued to dominate after the restart and were rewarded with their third try in the 52nd minute when Sean Cronin broke away from a maul deep inside the Scarlets’ 22 before diving over.
Sexton converted too give the hosts a 28-11 and just before the hour-mark Leinster took full control of the match when Jordan Larmour dotted down. This, after he delivered a kick upfield which caught the Scarlets’ backline by surprise as the ball bounced around inside their 22. Lamour was first to the ball and scooped it up before crossing for a deserved five-pointer.
The Welsh region seemed shellshocked but did well to launch a fightback and in the 65th minute, McNicholl crossed for his second try before great interplay by
Leinster’s backs and forwards was rounded off by Jack Conan which gave his side a commanding 40-18 lead.
But despite their big deficit, the Scarlets continued to attack and they were rewarded in the 78th minute when Werner Kruger barged over from close quarters for their third try.
And with time running out on the clock the 2017 PRO12 champions finished stronger with Gareth Davies setting up McNicholl for his third try which added some respectibality to the final score.
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Isa Nacewa (c), 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 James Ryan, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Cian Healy
Replacement: 16 James Tracy, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Scott Fardy, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Rory O’Loughlin
Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny Mcnicholl, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Tadhg Beirne, 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens (c), 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 David Bulbring, 20 Will Boyde, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Tom Prydie
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius Mitrea (Italy), Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Television match official: Neil Paterson (Scotland)