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
Aviva Premiership
Friday , October 3
Bath vs Saracens19:45
Saturday , October 4
London Irish vs Northampton15:00
Harlequins vs London Welsh15:00
Gloucester vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , October 5
Sale vs Wasps14:00
Newcastle vs Exeter15:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , October 4
South Africa vs New Zealand16:05
Argentina vs Australia23:40
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 3
Connacht vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Ulster vs Edinburgh19:35
Zebre vs Ospreys19:35
Saturday , October 4
Leinster vs Munster18:30
Sunday , October 5
Benetton Treviso vs Glasgow14:00
Scarlets vs Newport Gwent D'gons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , October 3
Oyonnax vs Toulon20:45
Saturday , October 4
Bordeaux-Begles vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Brive18:30
Bayonne vs Montpellier18:30
La Rochelle vs Lyon18:30
Castres vs Grenoble18:30
Toulouse vs Stade Francais20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , October 3
Pumas vs Blue Bulls15:00
Sharks vs Lions19:10
Saturday , October 4
Cheetahs vs Western Province14:00
Griquas vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Wednesday, October 1
Hawkes Bay 36 - 14 WellingtonHawkes Bay vs Wellington Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 28
Wasps 35 - 18 NewcastleWasps vs Newcastle Report
Exeter 36 - 13 HarlequinsExeter vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 33 - 15 Benetton TrevisoNewport Gwent D
More Guinness PRO12 results
ITM Cup
Tasman 32 - 24 OtagoTasman vs Otago Report
Canterbury 26 - 28 SouthlandCanterbury vs Southland Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 27
Leicester 19 - 22 London IrishLeicester vs London Irish Report
Saracens 40 - 19 Sale SharksSaracens vs Sale Sharks Report
Northampton 31 - 24 BathNorthampton vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
South Africa 28 - 10 AustraliaSouth Africa vs Australia Report
Argentina 13 - 34 New ZealandArgentina vs New Zealand Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Zebre 13 - 6 UlsterZebre vs Ulster Report
Munster 14 - 19 OspreysMunster vs Ospreys Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulon 40 - 17 MontpellierToulon vs Montpellier Report
Grenoble 27 - 25 Racing Metro ParisGrenoble vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Brive 34 - 24 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 8 - 19 Clermont Auvergne
Stade Francais 43 - 10 La Rochelle
Lyon 28 - 18 Castres
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 53 - 24 Eastern Province KingsSharks vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Griquas 8 - 46 LionsGriquas vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 20 - 22 ManawatuWaikato vs Manawatu Report
North Harbour 28 - 25 Hawkes Bay
Counties Manukau 55 - 7 WellingtonCounties Manukau vs Wellington Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh 10 - 46 GloucesterLondon Welsh vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens418
2Northampton416
3Bath415
4Exeter414
5Wasps411