Brian O'Driscoll landed a first-half drop-goal to set Leinster on their way
By James Standley
Leinster mounted a second-half fightback to win their first ever Heineken Cup and round off a historic season for Irish rugby in style.
Drop-goals from Irish talisman Brian O'Driscoll and Jonathan Sexton helped Leinster into a 9-3 lead.
Leicester hit back through a converted try from Ben Woods and two Julien Dupuy penalties to take a 16-9 lead.
But Leinster levelled through Jamie Heaslip's converted try and Sexton's late penalty secured a thrilling win.
With Ireland having won the Grand Slam and Munster - who saw their defence of the Heineken Cup ended in the last four by Leinster - having claimed the Magners League, Leinster's win at Murrayfield completes a year of unparalled success for Irish rugby.
Leicester were bidding for an unprecedented third League and European Cup double but despite a hugely committed display, they just lacked the cutting edge to join French aristocrats Toulouse as the only club with a hat-trick of Heineken Cup wins.
Over the years Leinster's fine backline has been let down at the top level by a shortage of real grunt up front, but the Irish province have assembled a pack capable of mixing it with the very best.
Australia flanker Rocky Elsom has been an inspired signing and he was prominent in the opening stages as the Irish side, after nearly conceding an early lead, took the upper hand.
Leinster's former Leicester flanker Shane Jennings conceded two early penalties and from the second of them the Tigers had the chance to take the lead, but scrum-half Dupuy could not hit the target with a tricky kick.
However, Leicester then failed to claim a high kick in midfield and when Jennings released Elsom the big blind-side powered 40 metres before smashing through the attempted tackle of Leicester's powerhouse winger Alesena Tuilagi.
The Tigers eventually brought him down but Leinster recycled possession and when they fed the ball into midfield, O'Driscoll popped over a drop-goal to get the scoreboard ticking over.
Leicester immediately went on the attack and a sharp break from Dan Hipkiss led to Leinster infringing and Dupuy knocked over the resulting penalty to level the scores.
But Leinster were assuming control and they edged back in front when Sam Vesty, for the second week in a row, failed to find touch with a clearance kick and was duly punished.
Last week London Irish full-back Peter Hewat fielded a poor kick and returned it for a sweetly-struck drop-goal, this time it was Sexton who banged over a monster effort from the halfway line.
Two minutes later the Dublin side came within inches of scoring the first try of the match as Gordon D'Arcy was desperately hauled down in the shadow of the posts.
But the Tigers were under huge pressure and when Leinster mounted another pummelling attack they fell offside and Sexton gave his side a six-point lead.
At this stage the Tigers were rocking but the English champions are nothing if not resilient and after weathering the storm they managed to get on the front foot courtesy of a couple of fine Hipkiss breaks.
The Tigers, who lost Jordan Crane to a knee injury, mounted a bludgeoning attack just after the 30-minute mark and Leinster prop Stan Wright cynically tackled Vesty off the ball.
The Cook Islands international was sin-binned and Dupuy duly taxed the Dublin side three points.
With Leinster down to 14 men Leicester took total control and after Hipkiss and Ayoola Erline had made the initial incisions, Woods took a pass from Vesty and delivered the final cut with a try to the right of the posts.
Flanker Rocky Elsom produced a huge performance for Leinster
Dupuy converted and although the lead may have come against the run of play the momentum was now firmly with the Tigers and they edged further ahead soon after the restart through a third Dupuy penalty.
During Wright's absence Leicester scored 10 unanswered points but an Elsom rampage down the wing lifted the Irish side and they were given a further boost when Leicester captain Geordan Murphy was forced off after 46 minutes.
Suddenly the game had titled back in Leinster's favour and Heaslip powered over to finish off a sustained attack, with Sexton's conversion levelling the scores at 16-16 with half an hour to play.
The young fly-half, in for the injured Felipe Contepomi, missed the chance to put them back in front as he pushed a penalty wide but when he was handed anther chance with 10 minutes to go he guided it just inside the right-hand post to put Leinster back into the lead.
They pinned the Tigers back in their half with some ferocious defence and despite a desperate late attack from Leicester, Leinster held out to claim their maiden Heineken Cup.
Leicester: G Murphy; Hamilton, Erinle, Hipkiss, Tuilagi; Vesty, Dupuy; Ayerza, Chuter, Castrogiovanni, Croft, Kay, Newby, Woods, Crane. Replacements: Smith for G Murphy (47), Ellis for Dupuy (75), White for Castrogiovanni (52), Kayser for Chuter (55), Moody for Woods (60), L Deacon for Crane (32). Not Used: J Murphy.
Leinster: Nacewa; Horgan, O'Driscoll, D'Arcy, Fitzgerald; Sexton, Whitaker; Healy, Jackman, Wright, Cullen, O'Kelly, Elsom, Jennings, Heaslip. Replacements: R Kearney for Fitzgerald (71), Fogarty for Jackman (55). McCormack (temp 36-43) for Jennings Not Used: Toner, O'Brien, S Keogh, Dempsey.
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