You know, just once I'd like to see these two great clubs face each other without knowing an asterix would need to be put beside the final scoreline.
Normally, as was the case this time round, the derby is played the week before Heineken Cup matches – either the crucial opening series, or the even more crucial quarterfinal stage (not to mention right after a gruelling Six Nations campaign).
Even the Magners League final from last May, although having nothing right after it, was preceded by a weekend when Munster had their feet up watching their nemesis come back from the dead to grab a famous victory in a slightly more important competition.
So I guess the best we can ever hope to expect from this fixture for the immediate future is a tough contest for 60 minutes before the cotton wool gets produced and everything afterwards is pretty much pot luck.
And that's exactly what we got at the Aviva Stadium on Friday night. Basically Munster played with the same fire they brought to the table last May only this time we were able to not only match them but pretty much oust them at every position on the park and hold the lead from the 21st minute right to the end.
Most of the talk pre-match, quite naturally, was about the outhalf battle and few could argue that Sexton won it hands down and has definitely put his World Cup demons to bed. He really is a different player wearing a blue jersey, and you have to wonder if this is because when he has it on, he knows for sure that everyone supporting his side wants him to have it.
He won man of the match for three reasons – first, of course, was the return of his kicking mojo. But given the fact that Munster had us under the kosh in the final quarter, the match-winning moment had to be his forced turnover when they were pressing our line. A try at that moment could very well have produced a different result and although O'Gara didn't have a bad night by any means, you certainly wouldn't ever expect a similar contribution from him at the other end of the pitch.
However what needs to be highlighted most in Sexton's game is his restarts. He is key part of an evolution of rugby union's halfway-line kickoff from a lottery to a set-piece similar to a scrum or a lineout, ie if a side begins with the ball in their hands they should also come out with it.
That is what had Leinster leading after the first quarter. Winning the ball back from your own kickoff obviously puts immense pressure on the opposing team, and what's more, whatever about missing O'Driscoll, we still had a powerful centre combination who were able to combine to turn possession on the restart line into possession on the 22 in double quick time – and once we got there, Munster had to summon every ounce of their strength to keep us out.
And although the visitor's defence was solid (it's only proper for me to keep track of our tryless streak in this fixture, which now stands at 219 minutes) the only reason it remained so was that they had to give away penalties around their 22, often ones so sensless (like Niall Ronan's “I think I'm as invisible as Richie McCaw” moment in the first half) that even the most diehard Munster fan couldn't argue with the call.
Of course Leinster had to give away the odd dodgy penalty themselves, like Healy's at the start of the second half (we'll call that karma after Jacobsen's similar action in Edinburgh last week) and of course the penalty try, the second in a row we've conceded against the same opposition with a makeshift scrum combination.
The lineouts were a good contest throughout the night with the odd steal for both sides but most of all solid, and you have to say Devin Toner held his own very well given his was on the pitch with the three leading Irish test locks. Got me thinking maybe Declan Kidney could consider leaving Leo with Leinster for the Six Nations and giving Devin some time with his squad? If he impresses in the four European matches to come it has to be an option.
Actually it could be argued that the biggest difference in the match was the backrow. Munster fans on twitter were confused when Ronan got the start at 7 and this was proven right – they were much better going forward when O'Mahony and Coughlan were on the pitch, although to be fair they did have an extra forward at that stage.
I also have a little query about the Munster coaching brains trust...why on EARTH did they send on John Hayes when they did? I'm not talking about his playing ability, I'm more talking about the fact they were still in the match and the clock was ticking down and he's not exactly Mr Speedy Gonzales when it comes to getting into position?
Actually I think the biggest difference between the two sides was at centre. While D'Arcy and particularly McFadden kept making inroads, you could see that Mafi and Chambers had the talent but just not the ease with each other that will no doubt come over time. And that time really needs to be now for them, with two very tough opening Heineken Cup matches on the horizon.
And back to Leinster's 12 & 13, I anticipated O'Malley's introduction, coming for D'Arcy and going to 13 with Fergus moving to inside, but I thought the 73rd minute was too late. Should BOD be unavailable, starting with the centre like we did then making that exact same switch at the 60th minute could be a formidable weapon in the upcoming Heineken Cup campaign, given O'Malley's proven tackling abilities.
Then there was Leinster's back three. Yes, we actually had one. Did Munster put up even one garryowen on the night? I'm pretty sure that despite the fact that they lost, the coaches at Bath, Montpellier and Glasgow will be thinking along the same lines...you put the ball in the air against Isa, Rob and Luke and you'll come to regret it, so apart from tackling and of course that Kearney drop goal, they were pretty much kept quiet on the night.
That does give me concerns about Isa being on the wing in that he'll be virtually neutered as an attacking threat, but you'd like to think that the three will mix things up in the coming weeks despite the numbers on their backs.
And mention must also go to the competing scrum halves. Has Isaac Boss done enough to earn the starting jersey in Montpellier? I think he may very well have.
His opposite number Conor Murray didn't do too badly, though in many ways he's like an “O'Leary 2.0” in that he's a strong carrier of the ball but actually CAN box-kick. Still, there was the odd question mark about his distribution. And the less said about O'Leary 1.0's cameo, the better, I find!
Overall, yes, I know I'm biased, but I still think the right side won this match. Given we had just one win from our first three matches, I can't have too many complaints about being joint top of the Pro12 table as we kick off Pool3, even if it is with a trip to France.
Oh, and one last thing...well done to the stadium announcer for the way he shouted the Leinster scoreline and mumbled the Munster one. Not just because of my allegiance either...I'd have a laugh if the guy at Thomond did the opposite. These are all little things that clubs can do to add to the entertainment – bring on more of it, I say. JLP