Devin Toner's attempts to win a fifth European Champions Cup medal were scuppered today as Leinster lost 10-20 to a powerful Saracens side at the home of Newcastle Utd.
Toner had played his part in previous Leinster triumphs in this competition in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2018 but it was not to be today for the big lock forward and the Leinster team that was captained by Wexford man Tadhg Furlong.
The Moynalvey was named in the team in his familiar lock forward position with fellow Meathman, Hugh O'Sullivan selected as one of the replacements and indication that the young scrum-half is making considerable progress at Leinster.
Tomorrow Hugh's brother Cillian will line out for Meath as they seek to get their Leinister SFC campaign off to a winning start against Offaly at Pairc Tailteann.
Toner won the ball in a line-out early in the game at which Saracens infringed and from the resultant penalty Johnny Sexton scored to put the Blues 3-0 up. It got better for the reigning champions when on 32 minutes Furlong powered over for a try, converted by Sexton.
However that was to be the high point of the game for Leinster. Saracens hit back with a penalty from Owen Farrell before Sean Maitland went over for a try. Farrell converted to leave it 10-10 at the break.
In the second-half a combination of errors and wrong options from Leinster combined with the power of their opponents ensured Saracens added to their account first with a Farrell penalty. Then Billy Vunipola went over for a try converted by Farrell.
Leinster could hardly get out of their own '22' in the closing stages and they relinquished their crown as kingpins of Europe.
O'Sullivan's selection on the bench for today's big game was a significant milestone in his career - although he didn't get on the pitch during the high-tempo, ultra physical contest.
The former Belvedere College man has made 14 first-team appearances this season, two of which have been starts, but his two previous European appearances — against Wasps in January and Toulouse a few weeks ago — have amounted to just eight second-half minutes, but they still provide invaluable experience. O'Sullivan made his debut for Leinster in a PRO 14 game last September.
Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster expressed his confidence in O’Sullivan’s ability before the player was named on the bench for today's game.
“He’s a confident young man and that’s what you need in a scrum-half, I’m delighted for him the progress he has made this year." Lancaster added that O'Sullivan had done his work on the training pitch ahead of today's game.
The Trinity College student, who won two Senior Cup titles with Belvedere, has impressed the Leinster coaching staff with his appetite to improve - and he's clearly a player for the future.
Toner has other targets in mind with the World Cup next September still the major, looming focus.