Leinster head coach Leo Cullen rues costly errors in European Champions Cup final defeat
Saracens came back from 10-point deficit to win 20-10 at St James' Park
Last Updated: 11/05/19 10:22pm
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said small errors cost his side victory against Saracens in the European Champions Cup final.
Saracens were crowned kings of Europe for a third time in four seasons after fighting back to beat Heineken Champions Cup holders Leinster 20-10 at St James'Park.
Leinster led 10-0 after half an hour after Tadhg Furlong claimed a first-half touchdown for Leinster, while skipper Johnny Sexton added a conversion and penalty.
But hopes of the Irishmen claiming a record fifth European title were dashed through tries by wing Sean Maitland and number eight Billy Vunipola.
"We're obviously very gutted," said Cullen. "We pulled into the ground before and you see that sea of blue so it was a great occasion for everyone out there.
"We started the game really well, created lots of opportunities and built that lead. Everybody is going to talk about that period before half time, that's when Saracens score some points and we give up the advantage we had built.
"But there are so many different moments in a game. We created a lot of opportunities and we just need to nail those chances against a very, very good team.
"I mean you see the size of some of their players, they're a big, big difficult team with lots of quality.
"And as we've seen on countless occasions, when a team is trying to chase a game against them, it's very difficult because they are so aggressive in the middle of the field."
Leinster's desperation increased as time ran down with play confined to their 22 and Sarries looking more likely to increase their advantage rather than concede points.
As the clock ticked past the 80-minute mark, hope had long since ebbed away and the whistle sparked delirious celebrations in the stands and on the sidelines as the English side claimed third Champions Cup in four seasons.
Cullen lamented one moment when his side came close to restoring their lead when first prop Cian Healy surged towards the line before being halted in the nick of time, and then Garry Ringrose was unable to get the ball away in the tackle with Robbie Henshaw in space outside him.
"They're very comfortable defending and putting the squeeze on teams," he added. "They did that really well, strangled us in the last 30 minutes when they had the lead.
"There were some big calls as well which I felt we didn't get and that's ultimately how we lost the game. I'm gutted. We'd love to be sitting here with a more positive outcome.
"Full credit to the players the way they applied themselves, and all the work that's been done behind the scenes to make sure we're in good shape at this stage of the season. We need to dust ourselves off now."
"But we need to move on as quickly as possible because we have a huge game against Munster (in the PRO14 semi-finals) next week".