Wasn’t that just the most impressive display you’ve ever seen?
And I’m referring, of course, to my skills of prediction, when I said that Leinster could win if they got Luke Fitzgerald the ball to hand AND matched their defensive display they showed against Quins.
I suppose the display of rugby by the boys in blue wasn’t bad either…
Seriously, though, to the match itself, what impressed me most is that although the first ten minutes went exactly the way the last two derby encounters went, Leinster were able to pick themselves up and find their way to their gameplan.
Though their intent was shown right from the kickoff as Rocky Elsom literally flew into his first tackle, soon after we were making simple mistakes and giving away easy possession and I for one was sitting there thinking it was to be a long evening. These feelings were compounded when Contepomi missed his opening kick.
But something seemed to stir within the Leinster ranks at that point. They were able to dig deep and show a determination not to capitulate and reinforce their “ladyboys” tag. This was first demonstrated by the Argentine's unlikely drop goal to open the scoring.
This new belief was also shown, albeit with negative results, by Cian Healy when he received his yellow card. There was no way we were going to match Munster on the day without our forwards getting right down there in the muck with their opposite numbers and duking it out. Healy is just a bit inexperienced at covering it up, that’s all.
Still, it was in that ten minutes Healy was off the park that we showed our mettle, and with the drop goal making it a 3-3 tie over that period, there really was no looking back afterwards.
Now I was as disappointed as the next guy when Felipe limped off, particularly as it could have been his last ever appearance in blue and gold, but for some reason I had feelings of confidence in his replacement Sexton, despite the fact that I’ve been bemoaning him all year for not being ready, and despite the fact that he missed his first kick after coming on.
He seemed to be as comfortable with his ability as the rest of Leinster’s 22-man squad on the day, and as wonderful as the link up between Nacewa and d’Arcy was for the opening try, what I will always remember is the way Sexton got right up in his predecessor O’Gara’s face right after the touchdown to celebrate.
Naturally, no Leinster fan in their right mind would have thought an 11-6 scoreline was enough at halftime, but the moment that broke the match was when we FINALLY involved our wingers in a backline passing move and between them Horgan and Fitzgerald bamboozled their Munster counterparts and actually had them up against the wall.
Now it was time for our famed defence from The Stoop to kick into gear. What absolutely incredible tackling we displayed, particularly from Heaslip, Drico and the most unfortunate omission from the Lions Squad, Gordon d’Arcy. Had he been playing since the beginning of the season, or even if McGeechan had postponed his announcement to next week, he would definitely be travelling to South Africa.
And so we held out a momentous dozen-plus-phase attack in our 22 from the reigning Heineken Cup holders, and shortly after we had the game’s crowning moment, the piece-de-resistance, which Hollywood script-writers couldn’t have imagined better.
I mean – how fitting was it that the two most renowned Munster players, ROG and POC, would try to link up on a pass only for it to be pinched by BOD who then sprints the length of the pitch for the clincher???
Now, it’s time to address a certain Mr Alan Quinlan. I watched RTE’s replay of the game Saturday evening (owing to newborn-baby-inspired-lack-of-social life) and I can tell you this – the man was not merely guilty of gouging Leo Cullen’s eye. He was throwing punches at virtually every ruck, and the fact that Sky’s cameras caught his transgressions so blatantly gives the Lions selectors a real headache over the coming days.
While on the one hand, Quinlan should definitely be punished, you have to ask yourself if his style of aggression could be just what the Lions need against the World Champions in June?
The best compromise, in my view, would be to ban him, but only from future Heineken Cup matches since the infringements happened in that competition.
But enough of what happens to Munster players. It’s what lies ahead for my Leinster squad in Edinburgh on May 23 that takes precedent. Sadly it is unlikely that I will be able to travel, but you can be sure that I will be watching every kick of the action from start to finish whether it be against Cardiff or Leicester.
Congratulations yet again to Michael Cheika and the boys for delivering such a world class performance which on its own must surely make everyone who bought a season ticket, for both this campaign AND next, feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth and more.