"Tie the Record" - Reviewing Leinster's Four Champions Cup Title Wins Ahead of Toulouse Clash this Weekend - Ruck

“Tie the Record” – Reviewing Leinster’s Four Champions Cup Title Wins Ahead of Toulouse Clash this Weekend

We are on the cusp of the 2023/24 Investec Champions Cup Final, and there is an immense opportunity on the line for Leinster Rugby. The Dubliners enter the final with four stars etched on their royal blue jersey, and could equal the all-time record of European titles should they come away victorious from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday.

However, Leinster are faced with the tall order of overcoming the only side to have won a quintet of titles. The Dubliners are set to face a ‘five star’ Stade Toulousain side, who want to add an unprecedented sixth Champions Cup title to their eclectic honours list. The Champions Cup has been a harrowing competition in recent years for Leinster, yet the Irish province were finally able to end their La Rochelle hex in this season’s quarter-finals.

After losing to Ronan O’Gara’s men in the past three iterations of the tournament, including back-to-back defeats in the final, Leinster finally eliminated Stade Rochelais this season. Leo Cullen’s men handed La Rochelle a thunderous 40-13 defeat, to send the yellows packing back to France. With all the eyes of Dublin facing firmly towards North London, let’s take a look back on Leinster’s four previous Champions Cup title wins, ahead of this Saturday’s potentially history making match.

1. 2008/09 Heineken Cup: Harlequins ‘blood-gate’ & Sexton is O’Gara’s successor

Leinster’s first time reaching the European rugby summit took place in the 2008/09 campaign, after the Dubliners won only their second Celtic League title the previous season. Leinster had a mixed bag of results throughout the pool stages, yet finished at the top of the group despite defeats to Castres and London Wasps.

A first placed finish saw Leinster draw Harlequins in the quarter-finals, in what has been remembered as the match with the infamous ‘blood-gate’ scandal. A gridlocked encounter saw the sole first half points come from the boot of Felipe Contepomi, as Leinster took a 6-0 lead into the break. A try from a young Mike Brown reduced the deficit to 6-5, before the infamous incident took place.

Harlequins wing Tom Williams was withdrawn from play with a dubious ‘blood injury’, despite the player not having encountered any clear contact to the head. The fakery was revealed to be a blood capsule, as Harlequins coach Dean Richards wanted to replace Williams whilst not using up a designated substitute. Richards received a three year ban from rugby, and Williams was also axed from participation for four months.

Leinster progressed through to an all-Irish semi-final against fierce rivals Munster, with the Dubliners getting the upper-hand on O’Gara’s side this time around. Tries from Gordan D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald and Brian O’Driscoll built a heavy tally for the visitors, whilst Jonny Sexton ran out a clinical performance from the tee, as he continued to prize the Irish 10 jersey from O’Gara’s grasp.

There were plenty of ‘neutral’ fans at the final, as Scotland’s Murrayfield Stadium hosted an Irish and English side. Leinster were backed by their Celtic cousins as they took on Leicester Tigers, who were enjoying a period of dominance as the reigning Premiership champions. A tightly contested fixture was perfectly poised at one try a-piece, yet the sharpshooting of Sexton once again proved to be the decisive difference, as Leinster won their first European crown.