Schmidt delights at unique double
May 17, 2013
Leinster's Jamie Heaslip embraces the Challenge Cup following his side's victory over Stade Francais at the RDS © PA Photos
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt hailed his side's unique feat of holding both the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup at the same time following their 34-13 victory over Stade Francais at the RDS on Friday night.
The reigning Heineken Cup champions will see either Clermont Auvergne or Toulon succeed them at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday but for the next 24 hours at least they can revel in an unprecedented achievement.
Heineken Cup winners in three of the last four years, Leinster had dropped into the second tier competition after finishing behind Clermont in their pool. But Schmidt insisted winning the Challenge Cup at the RDS Arena more than made up for that disappointment, after watching his side run four tries past Stade.
"It's a trophy we have wanted for the last two months," said Schmidt. "For 20-odd hours we are both the Heineken Cup and Amlin Cup holders and that is a special thing. This is our third European trophy in three years and if you had said that at the start of the season I would have taken it with both hands."
Leinster raced into a 21-6 lead at the interval with tries from Ian Madigan, Sean Cronin and Rob Kearney with Cian Healy coming off the bench to score the fourth. Jonathan Sexton kicked 14 points and was named man of the match as Leinster claimed the first half of a potential trophy double, with the RaboDirect PRO12 final to come against Ulster next week.
"We have one match to play so no matter what happens tonight we have to turn around and try and do our best next Saturday," said Schmidt, who leaves Leinster after the PRO12 final to take charge of Ireland.
"I am a reasonably simple person, I just want to focus on next Saturday now. It is something that has eluded us in the last two seasons, we have won Europe and lost the Celtic League.
"To win the PRO12 would be massive. We will be looking to double up if we can."
Jamie Heaslip captained Leinster to victory but he handed the trophy-lifting honours to Sexton, who is leaving for Racing Metro in the summer, and retiring wing Isa Nacewa. "It was a no-brainer to be honest," Heaslip said. "Those two guys had such an influence on the game and such an influence on the squad."
Stade captain Sergio Parisse was a towering presence but the French side were not as clinical as Leinster and only managed to break down their defence late in the second half, when the game was already up.
"Leinster analysed our defence really well. They scored their first three tries from first or second phases. They played really well," Parisse said. "I hope this defeat and disappointment will help us grow as a team and give us experience for the future."
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