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Clinical Kirchner leads Leinster to title

Guinness PRO12 Editor 31 May 2014

It was a solemn farewell for Brian O’Driscoll but an electric Zane Kirchner ensured the Leinster legend bowed out with back-to-back RaboDirect PRO12 titles.

O’Driscoll, playing in his last professional match, was forced off the pitch early on at a sun-soaked RDS but Kirchner lifted Leinster spirits with a try before setting up Shane Jennings in the first half.

Finn Russell ensured Glasgow Warriors were never too far off the pace with an accurate kicking display but Kirchner crossed over again late on before Gordon D’Arcy completed the scoring to make it 34-12.

The Warriors flew out the blocks and after an unconvincing early effort under the high ball from Rob Kearney, Mike Ross was guilty of handling when offside and Finn Russell sent a 40-metre penalty through the posts.

Soon it was time for Leinster to show some intent of their own, Jimmy Gopperth finding touch with a penalty well within kicking range, but Kirchner would knock on when the hosts were looking threatening.

In a disappointing finale to a glittering career, O’Driscoll was forced off inside ten minutes, with Ian Madigan taking his place – and the RDS erupting in tribute to the 35-year-old.

Josh Strauss and Jonny Gray soon took turns to throw themselves at the new-look Leinster back line and it didn’t take long to pay dividends.

Tommy Seymour got his hands on the ball in the Leinster half and after he was subjected to a high tackle Russell’s tricky touchline effort crept over, off the right-hand post, to double Glasgow’s lead.

Leinster launched onto the front foot, Madigan’s youthful exuberance shining in the back line, and when the ball found its way to the left wing Kirchner was on hand to grab the game’s first try.

Gopperth sent over a powerfully-struck conversion to put Leinster one point ahead and despite threatening breaks from both sides, it remained that way until 35 minutes.

Warriors replacement Leone Nakarawa skipped between two defenders and tore his way into the Leinster 22 and when the Boys in Blue were found guilty of not releasing, Russell made it three from three from the tee.

Leinster hit back in customary fashion, Gopperth offloading to Kirchner at speed before the winger drew in the last man and offloaded to Jennings to score but Russell’s fourth penalty – on the stroke of half time – made it 14-12.

Jennings almost burst over for his second try shortly after the restart and Cian Healy was on hand to finish the job, only for the TMO to rule out his bundled effort.

A Gopperth penalty bounced back off the post soon after, before Russell sent two quickfire kicks straight into touch – an unusual chink in the armour of each fly-half.

Camped on their own line, Leinster launched a rapid counter-attack with Gopperth at its centre and only a last-ditch intervention from Seymour prevented Madigan diving onto a loose ball to score.

Gopperth then bisected the posts with two straightforward penalties in a matter of minutes to hand the Leinstermen an eight-point lead before the crushing blow arrived.

Six minutes from time and with Glasgow legs fading, D’Arcy found space out on the left and after twisting a turning the last man he fed Kirchner on his inside to complete the job.

And the same duo swung the scoreline even further in their favour as the clock ticked down, this time Kirchner feeding D’Arcy out wide, before Gopperth added another impressive conversion.

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