May 12, 2018 / 6:06 PM / 12 days ago

Rugby - Leinster edge out injury-hit Racing to claim fourth European title

BILBAO, Spain (Reuters) - Leinster equalled Toulouse’s record of four European Champions Cup titles when they eked out a 15-12 win over injury-ravaged Racing 92 in the final on Saturday.

Rugby Union - European Champions Cup Final - Leinster Rugby v Racing 92 - San Mames, Bilbao, Spain - May 12, 2018 Leinster Rugby celebrate with the trophy after winning the European Champions Cup REUTERS/Vincent West

Flyhalf Johnny Sexton kicked three penalties and Isa Nacewa slotted two as the Irish province added to their 2009, 2011 and 2012 triumphs in the continent’s most prestigious club competition.

Racing, who were never behind until Nacewa’s last penalty, replied with four penalties by stand-in scrumhalf Teddy Iribaren after suffering a major setback before kickoff when former New Zealand flyhalf Dan Carter was ruled out injured.

“It was a real arm wrestle. So delighted to come out on the right side of the result,” Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster said.

“I thought Racing were outstanding today, really put pressure on us at the breakdown.”

Racing suffered their second final defeat in three years.

“We failed. They did what they had to do to win the game. They deserved to win,” Racing coach Laurent Travers said.

The French side paid for their lack of discipline.

Rugby Union - European Champions Cup Final - Leinster Rugby v Racing 92 - San Mames, Bilbao, Spain - May 12, 2018 Racing 92's Virimi Vakatawa in action with Leinster Rugby's Garry Ringrose REUTERS/Vincent West

“We were very close. I think we could have won. At our level it is all about details and our discipline was poor in the first half,” flanker Yannick Nyanga said.

“We had a big heart today, but that’s not enough.”

Racing came close to forcing extra time after the buzzer when stand-in flyhalf Remi Tales’s drop goal flew just wide.

Racing, also missing first-choice scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud, suffered a major blow when Carter, named on the replacements bench, was ruled out an hour before kickoff due to a hamstring injury.

Starting flyhalf Pat Lambie sustained a knee injury in the second minute, so French international Tales, who did not feature on the team list in the morning, had to deputise.

Slideshow (11 Images)

Racing went ahead with an Iribaren penalty but Sexton levelled.

They traded a couple more penalties before the interval after the French side defended aggressively, disrupting Leinster’s usually well-oiled machine.

The normally free-flowing Irish side, who had scored 31 tries in eight games in the competition, were being kept at bay.

Racing took command in the second half as they went through the phases and were rewarded with an early penalty converted by Iribaren.

But Sexton responded with a penalty and Iribaren’s fourth penalty was cancelled out by Nacewa’s boot.

Another Racing offside infringement was sanctioned by Wayne Barnes and winger Nacewa coolly slotted home the winning kick one minute from time to ensure his head coach Leo Cullen became the first man to lift the trophy as player and coach.

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond

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