Leinster give ODriscoll perfect send-off

Brian O’Driscoll lasted just eight minutes of his last game but ended his career a champion as Leinster eased past Glasgow in the Celtic League final in Dublin on Saturday.

A calf injury brought a premature end to the centre’s glittering career but it was not enough to derail Leinster as they claimed a fourth Celtic League title, their second in succession.

Two tries from Zane Kirchner plus further scores from Shane Jennings and Gordon D’Arcy gave the Irish province a handsome win, with fly-half Jimmy Gopperth adding 14 points with the boot.

Glasgow, who were well in the game until fading badly in the final quarter, could only manage four penalties through young fly-half Finn Russell.

O’Driscoll’s farewell had been the focus of the build-up to this final as the former Ireland centre rounded off his illustrious career on home turf.

But the ending came sooner than he would have imagined as, with Leinster trailing 3-0 to an early Russell penalty, he left the field in just the ninth minute having attempted in vain to play through a calf problem.

He left the field to a predictably cacophonous reception as Ian Madigan replaced him, but it appeared to initially unsettle the Irish province as Glasgow’s lively offloading game asked questions of their defence.

Russell knocked over his second penalty after a high tackle from Mike McCarthy to extend the Warriors’ advantage.

But Leinster hit back with a try which highlighted their champion pedigree.

Glasgow were stretched and strained by 20 phases of attack and eventually ran out of tacklers as South Africa cap Kirchner strolled over out wide with Gopperth converting.

The Scottish side’s cause was not helped by injuries to flanker Chris Fusaro and hooker Dougie Hall, although the former’s replacement, Leone Nakarawa, was soon at large and making an impact in the loose.

Russell got them back on track with his third penalty after an encouraging sustained attack but they fell behind again just two minutes before the break.

Gopperth’s inside pass sprung Kirchner through the Glasgow defence to send Jennings cantering over for Leinster’s second converted score.

A long-range penalty from Russell trimmed Glasgow’s deficit to just two points at the break, but they were fortunate to escape a scare early in the second half.

Replacement hooker Pat McArthur overthrew a defensive line-out and Jennings gratefully seized on the error and made for the line.

Chris Cusiter’s brilliant tackle prevented the flanker getting his second score but prop Cian Healy looked to have finished the job when he wriggled his way through an Alex Dunbar challenge to ground the ball at the base of the post.

But the score was ruled out as the Ireland loosehead was adjudged to have been grounded and held by the Scotland centre.

The let-off lifted Glasgow and they battered away at the Leinster line after a sharp attack, but Niko Matawalu’s greedy snipe for the line turned the ball over and allowed Gopperth to lead a swift counter from the hosts, which ended with a penalty slotted by the former Newcastle stand-off.

Another Gopperth penalty stretched the lead to eight points, before Kirchner delivered the killer blow after D’Arcy had profited from a turnover on halfway.

The same pair linked for the final try. Matawalu’s reckless chip and chase on his own line simply gifted the ball to Leinster with Kirchner putting D’Arcy over to give O’Driscoll a winning send-off.


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