Jonathan Sexton inspires Leinster to Heineken Cup glory

Jonathan Sexton goes over for his first try at the Millennium Stadium
Jonathan Sexton goes over for his first try at the Millennium Stadium

Leinster's Jonathan Sexton reflected on an inspirational performance on and off the pitch after his side's Heineken Cup final win over Northampton.

The fly-half was named man of the match after Leinster overturned a half-time deficit of 22-6 to win 33-22.

As well as scoring two tries in a 28-point haul, Sexton also delivered a stirring half-time team talk.

He said: "We were shellshocked and needed leaders. I said comebacks happen in finals - I knew we could come back."

Sexton revealed he used the example of Liverpool coming back from 3-0 down to beat AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final.

"I watch a lot of sport and that Liverpool game just stuck in my mind for some reason," he said.

"It felt it was gone when they got that third try, that everything we had done to get out of the pool and get to the final was down the drain.

"We were shellshocked and needed half-time. We regrouped. We had to believe and we took our chances.

"We have leaders who stood up in the second half. When a team gets a score and gets the momentum going it is hard to stop. It was like a snowball effect."

Sexton became the second-highest points scorer in a Heineken Cup final with his personal total of 28. Had he slotted his penalty 12 minutes from time - his only miss from eight attempts - then he would have surpassed Diego Dominguez's 30 points for Stade Francais against Leicester in 2001.

Leinster centre Brian O'Driscoll hailed the contribution of Sexton after the Cardiff decider, which was played out in front of 72,456 fans.

"We had some choice words at half-time and Sexton was phenomenal in the dressing room, he was a man possessed," said the Ireland captain.

"He said this game would be remembered if we came back and we will remember this for a long time."

Leinster collected their second European title in three years, although their title hopes were in tatters after the first 40 minutes, as Northampton took control of the match.

After being bullied by a rampant Northampton pack in the first half, Leinster's forwards turned the tables with an awesome display of power and scrummaging as the Saints set-piece crumbled.

The previous biggest comeback in a Heineken Cup final had come in 1998, when Bath fought back from 15-6 down to beat Brive 19-18 in Bordeaux.

And Leinster boss Joe Schmidt credited the turnaround to former New Zealand prop Greg Feek, now scrum coach with the Irish side.

"Feek got the forwards together and we ironed out the scrum. We locked them down really well in the second half," said the New Zealander.

"After that it was a case of holding the ball. I spoke about that, Jonny spoke about that.

"I knew we'd have to score first at half-time. Once that happened we sensed the momentum shift. The players did and the crowd did."