No9 lives to regret angering Will Skelton in Champions Cup final mass brawl
By Rugby Onslaught

No9 lives to regret angering Will Skelton in Champions Cup final mass brawl

There must have been a moment in the first half at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday where Leinster felt they were truly unstoppable in the Heineken Champions Cup final against La Rochelle.

A 17-0 lead, turning over the ball at will, marching La Rochelle backwards time and time again in defence, it was just a rugby masterclass and it looked as though the Irish province were marching towards their fifth European title. Then something happened.

It is hard to know what the exact turning point in the match was, but it may have come on the half hour mark. Leinster were leading 20-7 and had possession in La Rochelle’s half. Like almost every piece of possession they had, they looked as though they were going to score. They were then awarded a penalty by referee Jaco Peyper after lock Will Skelton was caught holding onto scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park’s leg at the ruck. The No9 did something after that he will surely me regretting now.

With Skelton still on his knees, Gibson-Park pulled off the ultimate piece of scrum-half play, pushing the Wallaby. Skelton barely budged, partly because he is 60kg heavier than the Ireland scrum-half, but it kicked off the first mass brawl of the match, with players running in from all directions. Meanwhile, Gibson-Park snuck out the back of the brawl with a smile on his face.

Leinster kept the penalty and kicked for the posts, extending their lead to 23-7, but Gibson-Park had accidentally awoken the beast. The defending Champions Cup winners needed something to kickstart their match, and this might well have been it. After that penalty kick, Leinster only scored another three points in the remaining 50 minutes while La Rochelle scored 20 to go on and lift the trophy. Skelton himself was sensational in the match, and Gibson-Park might be rueing that push.

Take a look at the brawl: