A last gap penalty from Leinster’s Noel Reid sealed the British and Irish Cup for the Irishmen against a gutsy and determined Newcastle Falcons side.
The RaboDirect club made it a cup double with their senior outfit lifting the Amlin Challenge Cup with a 34-13 triumph over Stade Francais the same evening.
But the Falcons put in a solid display with a mixture of youth and experience getting the chance to shine at Kingston Park.
Newcastle, who defeated Nottingham and Bedford Blues in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively, opened the scoring with barely a minute on the clock thanks to a Joel Hodgson penalty.
Leinster were penalised for offside and the academy product did the rest with the boot to put his side 3-0 up.
Hodgson was in the thick of the early exchanges, going close to a try in the corner after the former RGS pupil latched on to his own chip over the top. Andrew Boyle came to the rescue with a try saving tackle to earn Leinster a line-out five metres from their own line.
Leinster lost the line-out with Newcastle carving out their next attack in the shape of their industrious backs, but to the visitors’ credit they stood firm in defence. However, the pressure soon told, and after being awarded a scrum five metres from Leinster’s try line, Scotland international Rory Lawson sniped his way over the whitewash from close range. Hodgson converted for a 10-0 lead.
Girvan Dempsey’s men mounted their first attack with a quarter-of-an-hour on the clock thanks to full-back Fionn Carr, who breached the Falcons’ defensive line to sprint half-the-length of the field before being hauled down on the 22. From the breakdown Leinster were awarded a penalty by referee Neil Hennessy, but Reid’s effort went wide of the post.
The Falcons were reduced to 14 men when Ollie Stedman was sin-binned for a late shoulder charge, and Leinster looked to take full advantage with Marsh pulling the strings in the midfield.
Making the most of the extra man, Leinster crossed for a touchdown courtesy of outside centre Brendan Macken just short of the half hour mark. Carr, who was having an assured game with ball in hand, again coasted through a gap before feeding scrum-half Luke McGrath on the charge. McGrath switched the ball on the inside to Macken, with the No.13 dropping his shoulder before racing 20 metres to dive over. Reid executed the penalty to perfection to reduce the deficit to 10-7.
Leinster went within inches of taking a narrow lead into the break when Marsh scooted through a gap following a series of drives from Jack O’Connell and Conor Gilesnan. Newcastle underlined their steel in adversity to thwart their Irish counterparts.
Hodgson had the chance to extend the Falcons’ advantage to 13-7 just before the interval with his second penalty of the evening, but his attempt veered wide of the uprights.
The talented half-back missed with his third penalty 10 minutes into the second-half following excellent work from winger Zach Kibirige. The Teessider chased through a long kick to earn his side the penalty 25 metres out.
Midway through the second stanza Boyle showed his speed on the outside, and if it was not for a last ditch Michael Tait tackle, the Leinster flyer would have been in for a superb try.
With 10 minutes plus injury time left Newcastle began to ask some serious questions of Leinster upfront with the Falcons heavies trundling the ball up. Despite enjoying phase after phase of attacks, Leinster weathered the storm to clear their lines and keep the score at 10-7.
The Dubliners had a golden chance to cross deep into injury time by virtue of winger Sam Coghlan-Murray. The pacey winger received the ball on the overlap on the far side, but a desperate tackle from Andrew Higgins prevented the score.
Reid levelled the score for his side in dramatic fashion with a last gasp penalty which went over via the post to take the game into extra-time.
Taiasina Tu’ifua was yellow-carded early on in the first period of extra time after he took out Carr when jumping for the ball.
On the stroke of half-time of extra-time the impressive Carr crossed in the corner after superb creativity from Marsh. Reid fired the touchline conversion against the woodwork but the visitors led 15-10.
However, there was more drama still to come, and Kibirige squared the game up moments later with a try to the delight of everyone inside Kingston Park. Hodgson fizzed the ball to Fitzpatrick, who showed composure to offload to Kibirige on the outside. Hodgson added the extras under immense pressure to edge the Falcons 17-15 in front.
The northeasterners looked to be heading home to victory, but the Falcons were soon on the back foot when they conceded a penalty at the scrum and Reid kicked the winning points to take the trophy home to Dublin.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Jamie Sole, 14 Zach Kibirge, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Andrew Higgins, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 James Hall, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 James Hudson (c), 6 Ollie Stedman, 7 Richard Mayhew, 8 Chris York
Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 James Hallam, 18 Scott MacLeod, 19 Taiasina Tu’ifua, 20 Chris Pilgrim, 21 Waisea Luveniyali, 22 Michael Tait
Leinster A: 15 Fionn Carr, 14 Andrew Boyle, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Sam Coghlan-Murray, 10 Cathal Marsh, 9 Luke McGrath, 1 Jack O’Connell, 2 Aaron Dundon, 3 Michael Bent, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 5 Mark Flanagan, 6 Dominic Ryan, 7 Conor Gilesnan, 8 Jordi Murphy (c)
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Martin Moore, 18 Leo Auva’a, 19 Daniel Leavy, 20 Adam Griggs, 21 Jordan Coghlan, 22 Adam Byrne
Referee: Neil Hennessey (WRU)