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Contepomi Bows Out On A High

Contepomi Bows Out On A High

Six years of determination finally paid off for Felipe Contepomi last Saturday as he lifted Europe’s premier trophy in his last act as a Leinster player.

“It was tough to watch it from the stands,” said Felipe Contepomi, who was ruled out of the final with an ill-timed cruciate ligament injury.

“It is much more nervous than playing the game because everything is out of your control. It was a great win.

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“We came from behind and especially against a team like Leicester who are very good at closing out games.

“Once you are behind you wouldn’t fancy your chances but Leinster proved we were up for it. We fought to the end and got a deserved win.”

It was a fitting end to Contepomi’s time at the province and the very reason he joined from Bristol back in 2003 despite doubts over Leinster’s ability to win competitions.

“Since I arrived at Leinster I heard no one believe Leinster was capable of winning the Heineken Cup but my decision to come to Leinster was because I saw it from the beginning – a team with a lot of potential.”

Unable to hold down a starting place under Declan Kidney, Contepomi would become a household name in world rugby as Michael Cheika took the reins at Donnybrook and the RDS.

The 31-year-old, who scored 1225 points in 121 competitive games for Leinster, places the Heineken Cup success firmly on Cheika’s shoulders.

“Leinster has been getting things right in the last few years on and off the pitch in terms of consistency with the coaching staff and players.

“After four years of building a team and having more or less the same playing squad and developing young players, you can see a great team with a great future.

“He (Cheika) has been targeting this success. At the start of the season we set out our goals and it was to win the Heineken Cup.

“We were up for it, we prepared really well. We knew what we were coming up against and sometimes things go your way.

“It takes a lot of courage for a team to come and win the first time they are playing at this stage. We fought to the end and I felt we deserved it.” 

Cheika built Saturday’s win on players brought through the Leinster Academy and senior, established players from both home and abroad.

“This team has matured and this was our moment to win it. We know that there are great young players coming through, but for the older players I don’t know how many more chances Leinster will have and we knew that.

“It’s very hard to get to a final. When you get there, you don’t want to let that chance slip by. That is why we targeted this year to win the Heineken Cup.”

Contepomi’s departure for Toulon this summer was going to open the door for Ireland ‘A’ international Jonathan Sexton next season.

As it happened, the knee injury to the Pumas star projected Sexton onto the biggest stage in club rugby but Contepomi’s understudy for the last few seasons seemed unfazed as he kicked Leinster into the history books.

“I’ve said it before. Johnny is a player who is young but has a full bag of tricks. He can run with the ball, take the ball to the line, has a great pass and a great kicking game. He kept putting Leicester back into their 22 and then the drop goal?,” Contepomi said, with a slight grin.

“I’ve never seen him do that in training. He showed his temperament. He had to kick a penalty to win the game and he stood up and kicked it.

“You have games that you are not that good and great games but I am sure he is a great prospect and I would say he is ready to start for Ireland and Leinster regularly.”

Contepomi bids farewell to Leinster after six years in the capital, during which time he qualified as a doctor.

New challenges await him and the sadness he feels in leaving is no doubt softened by the weight of that Heineken Cup medal.

“If you ask me, the best way to leave is with a Heineken Cup medal in your pocket.

“I had an unbelievable time here. I have played some of my best rugby in a Leinster jersey.

“It was a tough decision because emotionally I can hardly see myself playing as many games in Toulon as I played for Leinster.

“Leinster will always be the team I played the most games for and that means a lot.”