Forgive the grainy photo above - the best I could do in emotional circumstances. Johnny and Scott Fardy hold the Champions Cup while on screen the newly won Pro 14 Trophy finds a new home.
The score may flatter a little - it took a lot to shake the Scarlets off. But then again, they came back late with a three second half tries of their own, which managed to take the starkness off the scoreboard, without really panicking the Leinster team.
The first half showed lots of phases of play which proved why these two teams have been the most consistent in all competitions this year.
There was a ferocity about Leinster at the breakdown. But there was also immense control and discipline. Whenever it looked like a clear out was not going as planned, another player arrived at the right moment to complete the task.
A few definite tactics stood out in the first half such as the determination around the break down and the long controlled drives by the pack. But what stood out was the targeting of the Welsh side’s back three with high up and under kicks. We managed to retain possession on a fair number of them, including a memorable jump by Rob Kearney from a Sexton bomb.
The Leinster full back was making up for a poorly executed kick of his own a few minutes earlier which did not go far enough and gave away a penalty as the forwards had not retreated enough. He popped the ball to Sexton, and circled behind the out half, their brief eye contact enough to signal intent and began his chase.
Rob went up against another quality full back, Leigh Halfpenny, and came down with the ball. This move ultimately lead to the first try as Leinster arrived in the Scarlets twenty two and were not going to depart without a score.
The forwards took over. It was mesmerising to watch. Carry after carry, clear out after clear out. Unstoppable. Unrelenting.
Devin Toner does not score often and took this first try well. I think the forwards had decided that they needed this. In last year’s semi-final defeat to Scarlets, it was a few lapses in concentration by the pack that lead to the two soft tries that gave the men in red their early lead.
On that occasion they spotted that Leinster had no pillars on the ruck and simply picked the ball and went over the men on the ground. This tactic gave them go forward ball; they got position and kept up the pace until eventually scoring with their backs.
The Leinster pack was not going to be out played this year. Their commitment and sheer abrasiveness meant that they were going to get this first try.
The backs also had a part to play. There were plenty of moments in which the clear out of a ruck would not have been successful without the combination of a back with a forward.
The Scarlets might have argued that some of the clear outs came too late, that their man had been first in and gotten his hands on the ball, the clear out only occurring several seconds later. The referee, Stuart Berry, plays the rules that way.
Did Leinster have an advantage in that they had experienced this style of calls the week before? I think so. Against Munster under the same referee Leinster got a training run on how to time the clear outs to just the degree that Berry wanted.
The penalty score was even, with seven conceded by both sides, and caused mostly be the relentless pressure each imposed when in possession of the ball. The Scarlets got their turn to show their intensity and skill immediately after conceding the first try.
One of the biggest weaknesses in this Leinster team, and it’s been an issue all season, is their control, or lack thereof, of the restart. It is definitely worse when the big names are off. Think cold, wet Friday nights somewhere in Wales or Scotland. We score three points from a penalty, but cough up possession on the restart and let in seven.
We did it again, not dealing with a tricky restart, after scoring that fantastic, forward fueled try. And the men in red did not need a second invitation. The pressure they applied was immense. This time they were not going to accept a penalty - they wanted the full seven.
I never got a clear view of the grounding. The ball seemed to bounce up before being awarded to McNicholl, who had played a key roll earlier in the move. Could that have gone forward? Probably not, but the lack of a TMO call was disappointing, at a key point in the game.
Favouring the attacking team is fine in try line matters is fine, but you can still do that during a television review. Not to worry, it was well deserved score. They exploited our weak restart. Leigh Halfpenny made an uncharacteristic mistake by missing the straightforward conversion, mirroring Sexton’s missed conversion minutes before.
The score was 14-11 and the Scarlets never got any closer than this in the rest of the match.
You could tell from the body language that Johnny was not happy. He doesn’t hide his emotions, does he? There was something up with his kicking on the day. The statistics showed he missed two from seven attempts, but a few of the ones he scored wobbled over unconvincingly.
Let’s hope this hamstring injury will recover, as you can’t help but feel it’s the root of the problem with his kicking. He allowed Isa to take over in the European final after all.
It was from this irritation and anger, at himself maybe for the missed conversion and at his team for the lapse of concentration on the restart, that Sexton took control. He was verbal to his team mates, direct in his kicking and passing and showed his determination in everything he did to close out the half with a score.
Ultimately it was his flat pass, a beauty, to James Lowe that scored the try. But he kicked to the corner twice. He bossed everyone around him. He was a man on fire for those last few minutes, which then stretched out to almost five minutes of injury time.
He walked off the pitch at half time, having kicked a difficult, wide conversion, shaking his head, clearly unhappy. A ten point lead against solid opposition; one wonders whether Johnny is ever pleased by anything.
It was clear, however, that there were some things that needed to be fixed at half time. For all the possession and territory Leinster had, they were only ten points in front. Was this going to be a repeat of the Munster semi-final where we let them right back into a game they had only showed up to in patches?
Right from the start of the second half there was something extra gritty about Leinster. It took Leinster twelve minutes to score after the break, but they began the second the same way the first half finished. They were clinical, abrasive and too much for the Scarlets.
A second try quickly followed and it looked like the job was done. All finished bar the champagne.
That they came back into the competition at all was just a sign of what a solid team they have been over the last few seasons. Leinster were coasting at this stage and never looked worried that they would be caught.
Indeed letting in two tries at the death, on 79 and 81 minutes, will put a gloss on the scoreboard. At this stage the boys in blue were already starting to rehearse their post match press briefings in their heads you’d suspect. The party had already started.
It has taken long time to get back to the top of Europe. This time the precious double was achieved. On the back of a Grand Slam year, many of the team will have completed some professional goals quite early in their careers.
We will say farewell to Isa Nacewa, who is retiring. The plaudits he received are all justified. His impact on the team is obvious, a likeable man, a quality professional, passionate about rugby and Leinster.
He had a rocky enough introduction to Leinster all those years ago, playing a lot of time at number ten as backup to Felipe Contepomi. I don’t think there’s much argument that this was not his greatest position.
Only when he moved into the back three did we see his real genius come through. His attacking is phenomenal, and although some of his pace has left him in the twilight of his career, he is still dangerous, especially when linking up with the offloading Lowe this year.
His defense, however, is what stands out to me. I started to lose count years ago of the number of try saving tackles he put in close to the line. You wouldn’t even see him coming, nor would the attacker, he would simple materialise on the line and at pace to do the job.
Yes we will miss him dearly. His two year reprise from retirement has allowed some of his magic, his aura, to rub off on the latest generation. Farewell Isa.
Jordi Murphy also moves on. His choice was based on simple maths; there were too many back rows at Leinster for him to get game time and he was worried he might not get selected for the World Cup.
This season saw the retirement through injury of Jamie Heaslip, the long term injury to Josh Van der Flier, injuries to the likes of Sean O’Brien and Ruddock to name but a few. We go through back rowers fast.
Was his decision correct? Time will tell. He’s been a loyal player and has had a superb record at Leinster. He will also be missed and should excel up North. There might be spice at the inter-pros next year.
Before the season is over we have the small matter of the Summer Tour to Australia. I can’t help feel sorry for Luke McGrath, who was outstanding in both finals, and misses out on selection, apparently lying fourth in the pecking order. But the selection of the squad is exciting.
Michael Cheika, the Australian head coach and ex-Leinster coach, arguably was instrumental in bringing Leinster up to the standards of a top rugby team. He is garrulous and abrasive as evidenced in Bernard Jackman’s Blue Blood.
He shows no sentimentality for his stay in Ireland and will use any inside knowledge he has to give Australia an edge. The good news is that time has probably erased any advantage this could have given him. It would be delightful to stuff his Wallabies.
That’s a significant challenge, even with this squad of achievers. The Summer Tour places huge strains on these men. Many were involved in the Lions last year and have not had much of a break.
I think Joe Schmidt has no choice but to try out a few new combinations, to take a few risks with the first game. It would be nice to see Joey Carberry in to start - Sexton needs recovery time - and this could be a preview of the young man teaming up with Murray. If his touted move to Munster next year were to go ahead this we’d see a lot more of them together in the future.
I don’t think we will win the series. I’d be happy with a single match win. The emphasis should be on next year’s World Cup, which means expanding the squad, giving players who don’t know each other that well the opportunity to play thirty minutes or more together. We should be asking for the fringe players to get picked, to see what they are made of.
It may be difficult to think like that, given the remarkably successful year we’ve had. This Ireland team needs to move on, to move up, that means the World Cup and not a Summer series. I don’t even aspire to semi-final or final. I think we should be aim to win the competition!
Barring injury, you still have to be able to rotate players. There are seven games required to win the title over seven weekends, allowing for the schedule. That is an incredible toll to take on a player’s body. Having trust in your alternates is a key to this.
Anyway, this is one happy Leinster fan signing off on a great season. I’ll enjoy the Summer Tour but for me it’s just not that important. It won’t take too much gloss off this stellar Grand Slam and double winning year.