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Page last updated at 19:25 GMT, Saturday, 23 May 2009 20:25 UK

Cullen hails 'sweet' Leinster win

Leinster captain Leo Cullen (left) lifts the Heineken Cup trophy
Cullen (left) became the first Leinster captain to lift the Heineken Cup

Skipper Leo Cullen said Leinster's recent history of near misses made their first-ever Heineken Cup final win against Leicester even sweeter.

"It's been pretty tough times over the last few years but when you have had that hurt, it makes days like this all the sweeter," he said.

Leinster conceded 10 points when they lost a man to the bin but fought back to win their first Heineken Cup 19-16.

"The boys showed great spirit. It's really sweet," said Cullen.

Leinster's disappointments in previous years include losing in the semi-finals to bitter rivals Munster in 2006 and going out to Leicester at the quarter-final stage the year before.

And head coach Michael Cheika paid tribute to his side's character after their Murrayfield victory.

"I just think we believed in ourselves to come back," he said. "We played quite well, I thought, in the first part of the game.

"When we went behind, we just started dropping off a few tackles in close.

"It got to seven behind and they started cranking up their machine, they started counter-rucking us, they were taking it hard at the line and really started to try and dominate us.

"We were able to stay in there and come back."

Australia flanker Rocky Elsom marked a superb season with another stand-out performance at blind-side flanker for Leinster as they ended Leicester's bid for a record third League and European Cup double.

"There wasn't a lot in it," admitted Elsom. "That was a pretty good end to a pretty good season.

"You want days like these but there were times during the year when we didn't play as well as we'd like and it looked pretty long odds for us to make it through to the final.


"But we got ourselves back on track and I think, the last three games, there was just a lot of clarity about what we wanted to do."

Earlier this season Brian O'Driscoll led Ireland to Grand Slam glory in the Six Nations, and the centre was at the heart of Leinster's performance on Saturday.

"Just one competition to go, a little Lions series win which would cap it off nicely," said the South Africa-bound centre.

"It feels great. I've played for the team for 10 years and it was worth the wait. I love Leinster and I wanted to do it before the end of my career."

O'Driscoll suffered an injury scare late in the game after landing heavily on his right shoulder, but he played down any concerns after the game.

"I've been carrying it for a little while but a little bit of cotton wool this week and I'll be sorted," he insisted.

Leicester head coach Richard Cockerill refused to make excuses for his side's defeat, despite the game coming a week after their gruelling Premiership final win over London Irish.

"We're disappointed that we lost, obviously, but it was a tight game and there was three points difference," he said.

"We couldn't have given any more, could we? The boys played their hearts out. It's been a tough run-in for us.

"No complaints. You accept winning; you have to accept losing.

"Of course, we want to win. I'm not a great loser but you have to be dignified in defeat and that's us.

"We should be very pleased and proud of our season, because we're English champions, we've lost by three points in the Heineken final.

"It could have gone either way. They have to take the credit for winning it, because they've won it.

"We were fresh, we were into the game - I'm not going to use that as an excuse."

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see also
Leicester 16-19 Leinster
23 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Heineken Cup final as it happened
23 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Heineken Cup photos
23 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Cockerill's learning curve
21 May 09 |  English
Confident Cockerill counts on cup double
20 May 09 |  Leicester
Kay impressed by Cockerill transition
20 May 09 |  Leicester
Tuilagi loses appeal against ban
30 Apr 09 |  Leicester
Cockerill crowing in coaching role
17 May 09 |  English
Improve or forget double - Murphy
16 May 09 |  English
Leicester 10-9 London Irish
16 May 09 |  English
Cardiff Blues 26-26 Leicester (aet)
03 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Leinster 25-6 Munster
02 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Heineken Cup 2008/9
17 Jul 08 |  Rugby Union
European rugby archive
16 Aug 06 |  Rugby Union

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