Planet Rugby

Leinster shock the world

02nd May 2009 19:22

Share:

Munster Leinster

Lion Fight: Jamie Heaslip of Leinster takes on Munster's Ronan O'Gara

They did it! Leinster shocked the world by breaking out of Munster's shadow at sunny Croke Park on Saturday, booking a place in their first ever Heineken Cup Final courtesy of a runaway 25-6 victory over the reigning champions.

How they did it, we don't quite know. We doubt they even know! Could it be that they out-Munstered Munster?

The Dubliners succeeded where so many have failed: they shook the hitherto unshakeable confidence of the twice-crowned kings of Europe - and they shook it to pieces. Munster simply crumbled.

With a record crowd of 82,208 souls looking down on them, Leinster looked deep inside themselves and dragged out a performance of an intensity that many thought they were incapable of generating.

Soft city types? Leinster's label once rang with some truth, but no longer. Years of hurt, underachievement and self-doubt - even self-loathing - have been erased at a stroke.

Leinster's game plan was as audacious as it was unexpected. They took the red juggernaut head on - and won hands down.

Paul O'Connell pinpointed the breakdown and the set-piece prior to the match, almost as if to highlight his side's prowess in both areas - and the Lions skipper was stuffed in both, as were his fellow tourists. Was Donncha O'Callaghan even on the pitch?

Munster practically have rights over rugby's gainline, but they were reduced to incredulous onlookers as Leinster feasted on turnover ball. The cheek of it!

The boys in blue, with Rocky Elsom to the fore, were simply immense at the breakdown. No quarter was given. No reputations were respected. Grand Slam friendships were forgotten. Claret flowed freely, with Brian O'Driscoll's collar dyed to Munster colours by then end of the battle.

Leinster's ambush was a surprise but it unfolded with a steady beat rather than a bang: Munster had the better of their opponents in the early exchanges.

Indeed, they threatened early after an O'Driscoll clearance was charged down, and then almost picked their way through after an electric break from Keith Earls, who ran onto Lifiemi Mafi's offload and raced from halfway deep into Leinster territory.

Earls was eventually dragged down five metres out and when Munster transferred quick ball wide to Ian Dowling, Elsom was lying in wait to nail the winger and Leinster secured the turnover.

Felipe Contepomi, famously ruffled in that 2006 semi-final defeat, had a point to prove. The Argentinian made two powerful early runs and despite a shanked clearance and wayward long-range penalty he nudged Leinster ahead with a cool drop-goal.

O'Gara responded almost immediately with a penalty after Leinster loosehead Cian Healy had been sin-binned for taking out Dowling off the ball.

Leinster were unbowed. Their defensive pressure, epitomised by Elsom, was intense and they were finding holes in the Munster line.

Elsom crashed onto an inside ball and drew a penalty from the stretched defence but Contepomi suffered an apparent knee injury in the same passage of play.

Johnny Sexton came on and slotted the penalty with his first touch to push Leinster ahead.

As Contepomi left so Healy and Shane Jennings, who had been blood-binned after a blow to the head, both returned and Leinster's tails were up.

Nacewa burst onto a delightful inside ball from O'Driscoll and then floated a pass to Gordon D'Arcy, who stretched for the line to score after being grounded by Earls's tackle.

It was Leinster's first try in four European outings. Ronan O'Gara landed a penalty with his last confident kick of the game to keep Munster in touch at the interval but soon Leinster had their second try.

O'Driscoll was involved twice as Leinster worked the ball to Fitzgerald, who came in off the left wing past Paul Warwick to score. Sexton's conversion made it 18-6.

Munster reacted badly to the pressure. Twice they built prime attacking platforms inside Leinster's 22 and both times failed to chisel any kind of opening.

And Leinster then applied the sucker-punch. O'Driscoll popped up to intercept O'Gara's pass for O'Connell and the Ireland captain raced 70 metres to score under the posts.

Croke Park echoed not to the Fields of Athenry - an anthem so familiar now to these grand European occasions - but to the sound of Sweet Molly Malone. Fair city, indeed.

The scorers:

For Munster:

Pens: O'Gara 2

For Leinster:

Tries: D'Arcy, Fitzgerald, O'Driscoll

Cons: Sexton 2

Pen: Sexton

Drop: Contepomi

Yellow card(s): Healy (Leinster) - obstruction, 16.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Paul Warwick, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Ian Dowling, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Denis Leamy, 7 David Wallace, 6 Alan Quinlan, 5 Paul O'Connell (capt), 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 John Hayes, 2 Jerry Flannery, 1 Marcus Horan.

Replacements: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 Tony Buckley, 18 Mick O'Driscoll, 19 Niall Ronan, 20 Mike Prendergast, 21 Barry Murphy, 22 Denis Hurley.

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Felipe Contepomi, 9 Chris Whitaker, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Malcolm O'Kelly, 4 Leo Cullen (capt), 3 Stan Wright, 2 Bernard Jackman, 1 Cian Healy.

Replacements: 16 John Fogarty, 17 Ronan McCormack, 18 Devin Toner, 19 Sean O'Brien, 20 Simon Keogh, 21 Jonathan Sexton, 22 Girvan Dempsey

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)

Assistants: Nigel Whitehouse (WRU), Hugh Watkins (WRU)

TMO: Derek Bevan (WRU)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Heineken Cup
Saturday , April 26
Saracens vs Clermont Auvergne15:40
Sunday , April 27
Toulon vs Munster15:30
More Heineken Cup fixtures
RaboDirect PRO12
Saturday , April 26
Glasgow vs Edinburgh19:05
More RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures
Amlin Challenge Cup
Friday , April 25
Northampton vs Harlequins20:00
Sunday , April 27
Wasps vs Bath13:00
More Amlin Challenge Cup fixtures
Super Rugby
Friday , April 25
Blues vs Waratahs17:35
Brumbies vs Chiefs17:40
Sharks vs Highlanders19:10
Saturday , April 26
Hurricanes vs Reds19:35
Western Force vs Bulls17:40
Cheetahs vs Stormers17:05
More Super Rugby fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , April 20
Northampton 36 - 21 London IrishNorthampton vs London Irish Report
Newcastle 18 - 23 SaracensNewcastle vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Cardiff Blues 17 - 13 ScarletsCardiff Blues vs Scarlets Report
Newport Gwent D'gons 10 - 20 Ospreys
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , April 19
Bath 32 - 20 WorcesterBath vs Worcester Report
Exeter 12 - 55 SaleExeter vs Sale Report
Wasps 38 - 30 GloucesterWasps vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Zebre 26 - 13 EdinburghZebre vs Edinburgh Report
Connacht 23 - 32 MunsterConnacht vs Munster Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Oyonnax 19 - 19 ToulouseOyonnax vs Toulouse Report
Perpignan 31 - 46 ToulonPerpignan vs Toulon Report
Biarritz 19 - 13 Brive
Grenoble 21 - 21 Bayonne
Stade Francais 37 - 23 Bordeaux-Begles
Racing Metro Paris 22 - 6 Clermont AuvergneRacing Metro Paris vs Clermont Auvergne Report
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Chiefs 17 - 18 CrusadersChiefs vs Crusaders Report
Sharks 19 - 8 CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Report
Stormers 18 - 3 LionsStormers vs Lions Report
Waratahs 19 - 12 BullsWaratahs vs Bulls Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 18
Harlequins 24 - 20 LeicesterHarlequins vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Leinster 62 - 7 Benetton TrevisoLeinster vs Benetton Treviso Report
Glasgow 27 - 9 UlsterGlasgow vs Ulster Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Castres 22 - 15 MontpellierCastres vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Hurricanes 39 - 20 BluesHurricanes vs Blues Report
Melbourne Rebels 22 - 16 Western Force
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens2080
2Northampton2071
3Bath2064
4Leicester Tigers2064
5Harlequins2058