Ghana, West Africa – For those that are not aware, Ghana is a former British Colony. I bring that up because it is so funny that the Heineken Cup Final will be played by two Irish teams, considering how hard the Irish fought not to be a Colony. The final will be played at the home of English Rugby – Twickenham. The combatants? Ulster and Leinster.
There are 4 Provinces in Irish Rugby. All 4 were in the Heineken Cup this season, which was a first. The weakest was Connacht, as rugby is not the main sport in that province. The other 3 have won 5 Heineken Cup titles: Leinster 2, Munster 2 and Ulster 1.
Leinster won theirs in 2009 and 2011, so if they win it this year it will be an unprecedented 3rd title in 4 seasons. If they accomplish that, they’ll be breathing rarefied air indeed.
Ulster won theirs in 1999, a title which is unfortunately downplayed because English clubs chose not to participate that season. This will be an opportunity for Ulster to win a Heineken Cup Title without debate and bring their tally level even with the other two provinces.
Lets look at the two clubs.
LEINSTER – They showed the same calm and temperament that saw them have the greatest comeback in final match history in 2011 against Clermont-Auvergne in the Semi-final. Down at the half, they came out fired up and focused and pulled ahead by finishing strong.
Why they should be should be Champions: They know what it takes to win. They have outclassed the teams they are better than on paper and in the tight ones they have done the basics and fought smart. To go on the road for a semi-final draw and pull off a comeback to win, says a lot about the team, from 1-23 and coaching staff. They have a belief and faith that they will and should win regardless of score or situation. That kind of belief is part of the championship pedigree they possess.
ULSTER – If anyone is going to joke that Ulster are the only English team left, I suggest you shut it. Ulster rode their luck in the semi-final. Edinburgh seemed to consistently make mistakes but Ulster made no mistakes. On top of playing mistake-free, they capitalized on Edinburgh’s gaffs and showed the composure of a team locked into winning a match.
Why they should be should be Champions: They have added the imports from the Southern Hemisphere that make a difference in Afoa and Pienaar and mixed that with great young Irish talent like Cave and Gilroy as well as Irish Nationals Ferris and Best. They have people that know what is to win, to come close and lose and young players that are unfazed by the moment. They have a coach who is stepping down after being under fire so they want to play for him.
Admittedly, the reasons why Ulster should win are not as impressive as Leinster’s, but that is what makes them dangerous. That said, my heart wants Ulster but my head just does not see how Leinster will come undone. Either way it will be a hell of a match on May 19th.
That’s it. Please feel free to share your thoughts below and as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.