The 2012 Guinness PRO12 Grand Final will go down as one of the most dramatic and enthralling in history.
After a storied career at Ospreys, winger Shane Williams scored a late try – his second of the match – to snatch the title away from champions Leinster at the RDS Arena.
The legendary winger signed off his Ospreys career in style as the Welsh region mounted a remarkable comeback to down the European Champions in their own back yard.
Two years previously, Ospreys had denied Leinster in the final at the same venues and – despite a commanding Leinster lead – the Welsh side once again broke Dublin hearts.
Joe Schmidt’s side looked destined to claim the European and domestic double this time and went into the game as overwhelming favourites, but Williams’ late try – converted from the touchline by Dan Biggar – gave the Swansea-based side a 31-30 victory and the title.
Leinster’s fast start
First-half tries from Leinster’s Fijian winger Isa Nacewa and Sean Cronin put the hosts in control of the final, with fly-half Johnny Sexton adding seven points from the tee.
Ospreys playmaker Biggar kept the Welsh side in touch during the first period though, landing a trio of penalties to keep the scores at 17-9 at the break.
Nacewa’s moment of magic
On the big stage, the big players perform. Step forward, Isa Nacewa.
On the hour mark the match was poised with Leinster leading 23-21.
Nacewa winger collected a high ball on the halfway line. He jinked past an onrushing defender and had the presence of mind to send an inch perfect grubber kick down to touch line to put Ospreys under pressure.
Just minutes later, Leinster sent the big men up the middle disrupting Ospreys’ defence and making inroads into their 22.
The was spilled and Nacewa – typically off his wing looking for work – pounced on a loose ball and spun out of an attempted tackle to give his side an eight-point lead in the 2012 final.
But Ospreys were not done yet. They launched wave after wave of attack and were awarded a penalty when Leinster forward Nathan White was sin-binned, Biggar held his nerve to slot a penalty and put his side back within striking distance.
In the dying minutes, Ospreys scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i calmly marshalled his troops around the pitch and with pressure mounting on the Leinster line, something had to give.
Ospreys created quick ball and gave an early ball to Williams who threw a dummy and ducked under the tackle of Rob Kearney to dot down in the far corner – what a way to finish a 141-game career at the club.
Biggar’s fine conversion from the right touchline put Ospreys up by a single point and gifted them their fourth Guinness PRO12 title.
The Welsh side’s defence held firm with Nacewa, Sexton and O’Driscoll all throwing everything at them in the final play.
Flanker Justin Tipuric made a vital turnover and the game was won.
The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place on May 27 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Fans can guarantee their place by booking their tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie
Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final