This Friday night sees the latest chapter of the biggest rivarly in Irish rugby as Leinster and Munster collide at the Aviva Stadium. The two provinces have had a storied history and their fortunes have intertwined over the last decade.
Here at Sportsnewsireland we take a look back at the biggest and the best games that these two fiercest of rivals have fought out.
April 2006 Leinster 6 – 30 Munster Lansdowne Road
On a sun drenched afternoon Munster came to Lansdowne Road and blew their provincal rivals away in this Heineken Cup semi final. Having caused a huge upset in the previous round by beating Toulouse 35-41, Leinster came into the semi final full of confidence that they could put one over on their neighbours.
However it would be Ronan O’Gara’s and Munster’s day. The fly half proved a force of nature that day, pulling the strings and scoring 20 points in a man of the match performance.
It would be a signifant game for both teams. Munster would go on to land the Heineken Cup that second and finaly reach the promised land by beating Biarritz in the final to claim the maiden Heineken Cup success. Leinster went back to the drawing board, knowing full well where they stood in terms of gettin to Munster’s level.
It would be a huge challenge for them to reach. That day at Landsdowne Road Leinster were at the foothills looking at Munster scaling Everest. It would be a long way to the top for Leinster.
Sep 08 Leinster 0 – 18 Munster RDS
Having capture the Magners League title the season before it seemed that Leinster were beginning to make some progress as they looked to established themselves on a domestic and European stage. This night however was a reality check and showed how far Leinster had to go to reach Munster’s level.
Munster arrived at the RDS as defending Heineken Cup champions and full of confidence. This night however didn’t belong to one of their marquee names, it was South African Justin Melck who was only on a three month contract who got the vital score to put the away side 11-0 up.
Leinster who were defending a proud home record that streched back to October 2007 tried to raise their game but they had no answer to the red machine who pushed and puled them over the RDS. Kiwi star Doug Howlett applied the coup de grace in the last minute, racing on to a deft kick through from Ronan O’Gara to score.
It would be a painful defeat for Leinster. Losing at home to Munster was bad enough, losing at home without scoring a point demanded a response from them. It would come on the biggest stage that Irish domestic rugby has ever seen.
Sat 2nd May 09 Munster 6 – 25 Leinster Croke Park
In front of a record crowd of 82,208 at Croke Park Munster and Leinster clashed for a winner take all place in the Heineken Cup final. Munster came into the game as red hot favourites having steam rolled the Ospreys in the last round, while Leinster narrowly held on against Harlequins to set up the domestic showdown.
Munster started the brighter but Leinster refused to buckle under the pressure. Felipe Contepomi, famously ruffled in that 2006 semi-final defeat, settled Leinster with a well taken drop goal. Yet it would be an injury that he suffered that turned the game and a players career.
When Contepomi went off with a serious knee injury, the spotlight was thrown on Jonny Sexton who, in the highest of pressuirsed atmospheres, cooler controlled the game and announced himself on the scene as a number 10 of the highest class.
Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald and man of the match Brian O’Driscoll scored the tries that sealed Leinster’s place in their first Heineken Cup final. The defeat blew the aura of invincibility away from Munster. Leinster knew they could beat Munster and Munster knew it too. The balance of power had shifted.
Sat 3rd Oct 09 Leinster 30 – 0 Munster RDS
In a complete turnaround it was Leinster as Heineken Cup champions who welcomed Munster to the RDS and proceeded to blow them away in their most complete display of the professional era. Tries from Gordon D’Arcy, Brian O’Driscoll and Shane Horgan sent Leinster on their way as they went after Munster like men possessed.
Jonny Sexton led the way with a composed and polished display that belighed his youth and laid down a marker to his fellow Irish fly half Ronan O’Gara. From the time that Tomas O’Leary , who was fortunate to avoid a yellow card when conceding a penalty under his posts, pulled down the Leinster pack the Heineken Cup champions smelt blood and they went for Munster.
A bad night for Munster was made worse when John Hayes was sent off for stamping down on the head of Cian Healy. That incident summed up Munster’s night. The tide had firmly turned and it was now Leinster that were seen as the driving force in Irish rugby.
The intervening two years have seen more great battles as both provinces fight for pride and bragging rights. Expect another cracker as the fever comes to the Aviva once again.