Belfast Telegraph

Leinster look like a whole new team, beams Sexton

Leinster 38 Scarlets 16

By Cian Tracey

We wondered whether Leinster had learned lessons from two semi-final defeats last season, and their response was utterly emphatic.

Many of these players may have won a Grand Slam in the meantime, but in a blue jersey 12 months of hurt had been built up, and the Scarlets felt the full brunt of that as they were demolished.

This wasn't just an awesome performance that will help banish the demons, it was one that sent out a major statement of Leinster's intent. It will take something special to stop them claiming their fourth title in Bilbao on May 12.

At Friday's press conference, the tone was set by Leo Cullen and Johnny Sexton who, while having the utmost respect for a dangerous Scarlets outfit, just oozed confidence and clarity in what they were planning.

That was reflected in the team's performance at a resplendent Aviva as the Leinster pack obliterated the Scarlets to set the platform for the supreme Sexton to pull the strings.

"I think we looked like a different team compared to the semi-final last year - I suppose we are in many ways," the out-half reflected.

"Some of the pack that played today weren't around last year and they made a big difference.

"It was just really pleasing that all our hard work over the last couple of weeks paid off, but at the same time we know that the biggest challenge awaits us.

"When you come to a final anything can happen. We know that. We've been underdogs before in finals and won, we've been favourites and lost.

"You need to be humble and realise everything is about our preparation now. I don't think we were that much better than the Scarlets, we just took a couple of chances. We were quite clinical."

If this had been boxing, the Scarlets' corner would have thrown in the towel long before the final bell.

Five tries to one told its own story, but the manner in which Leinster bullied the PRO12 champions was extremely impressive.

"The game plan today was what we were meant to do last year - you need to play a little bit different against the Scarlets," Sexton maintained. "I think at times last year we tried to go around them and we got caught out, but today we picked our moments when we went wide a lot better. In fairness to the forwards they fronted up time and time again... and Robbie (Henshaw), he was insane."

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