Leinster progress to final of Champions Cup with 20-17 win over Northampton

James Lowe starred for Leinster with a hat-trick
James Lowe starred for Leinster with a hat-trick
©Steve Haag

Leinster 20-17 Northampton Saints, Dublin

James Lowe scored with a hat-trick as Leinster edged out Northampton Saints 20-17 in Dublin to reach the final of the Investec Champions Cup.

Having faced defeats in the finals of the last two seasons, Leinster will now face the winner of Sunday's semi-final between Toulouse and Harlequins.

The Irish province made a head start to the game as scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park sent a quick pass between James Ramm and Alex Mitchell to send Lowe over the line for the first of his three tries in the 10th minute and Ross Byrne kicked the conversion to make it 7-0.

Lowe continued to impress with Gibson-Park assisted once again allowing the winger to crossover but this time Byrne's conversion did not have pace as they had a lead of 12-0.

Nevertheless, Byrne made amends around the half hour mark when Trevor Davison conceded a scrum penalty which the fly-half kicked to perfection to make it 15-0 before the Saints finally opened the account with Fin Smith kicking a penalty of his own in the 39th minute. Leinster looked attacking at the stroke of half time with Van der Flier almost going through but missed control of the ball as the teams completed the opening half with a 15-3 scoreline.

Lowe completed his hat-trick early in the second half with Tadgh Furlong sending an offload for the winger to dive in the corner but Byrne missed the conversion making it 20-3. Northampton finally showed resilience in the 58th minute as George Hendy seized on the loose ball to dot down and Smith's conversion brought the gap down to 10 points.

Leinster had a chance to extend the lead but Byrne could not convert his 40m penalty kick. With six minutes left in the game, replacement Tom Seabrook dived in the corner and Smith kicked the conversion to make it a three-point game but Leinster held their nerve to defend the lead to progress into the final.

Team line up:

Leinster: Frawley; Larmour, Henshaw, Osborne, Lowe; R Byrne, Gibson-Park; Porter, Sheehan, Furlong; Molony, McCarthy; Baird, Van der Flier, Doris (capt).

Reserves: Kelleher, Healy, Ala'alatoa, Jenkins, Conan, McGrath, H Byrne, O'Brien.

Northampton: Furbank; Ramm, Freeman, Dingwall, Hendy; Smith, Mitchell; Waller, Langdon, Davison; Moon, Coles; Lawes (capt), Graham, Augustus.

Reserves: Matavesi, Iyogun, Millar-Mills, Mayanavanua, Scott-Young, James, Litchfield, Seabrook.


European Rugby Champions Cup Points Table