Saturday night was another big battle between Munster and Leinster with the men in blue running out 18-9 winners.
Typically games between the two rivals are exciting and tense affairs with both sides eager to show the others who is top dog on the Emerald Isle and while Saturday’s encounter goes down as a less memorable clash there were still plenty of talking points.
Here are three things SportsNewsIreland learned from the clash of Ireland’s rugby titans ahead of this weekends Heineken Cup.
Leinster know how to beat Munster
Pundits and fans alike have watched over the last few years as the title of Ireland’s top province has passed from Munster to Leinster with many able to pinpoint the exact moment it happened (2nd May 2009 in the Heineken cup semi final when the men in blue won out 25-6).
Since then the two sides have met seven times when Leinster winning five of them, although Munster fans will argue that one of their wins did come in the 2011 Grand final however a week after that 19-9 loss Leinster claimed club rugby’s biggest prize when they won a thrilling European final against Northampton.
Before the professional era and indeed until the last five years there was two rugby assumptions in Ireland, if you wanted a strong forward you went to Munster and if you wanted an attacking backline you went to Leinster. Not so anymore, Leinster now boasts the strong forwards while their backs are equally impressive giving Joe Schmidt side an overall stronger look to it. Leinster have shown that they can win pretty and when needed win ugly.
Munster meanwhile is a team in transition although the emergence of Simon Zebo, Peter O’Mahony and Conor Murray coupled with a return to that old Munster way of grinding out results from nowhere means that it is not doom and gloom in the province.
The summer departure of Tony McGahan means that the transition period could linger on for another 12-24 months and with Ulster making great strides in recent season and Connacht benefitting from shrewd management and a cash injection it is vitally important that Munster make the correct choice to replace the Australian.
Ian Keatley won’t feature against Ulster
With both sides naming as near full strength sides as possible the game was a big draw for fans with the likes of Ronan O’Gara, Jonathan Sexton, the returning Brian O’Driscoll not to mention New Zealand world cup winner Brad Thorn all on show.
From a Munster perspective despite the loss McGahan will have been pleased with a competitive run out for his players however one man who would have been happy is Keatley.
The former Connacht man has proved a more than adequate replacement for O’Gara during the throughout the season scoring 147 points in the Celtic League.
However when it comes to the Heineken cup the 24 year old has barely featured, making just two appearances from the bench and given that he has did not feature against Leinster you can safely assume that barring an injury he won’t feature in the quarterfinal clash with Ulster.
Granted there was league points at stake but with O’Gara well into the twilight of his professional career Munster are going to need a standoff to guide them through the next few years and for the moment that mantle is falling onto Keatley.
Therefore it would make sense to give him a run out in the bigger games especially as he shown on the occasions that he has been called up on that he is more than capable of stepping into the Cork man’s considerable shoes.
Ian Madigan is fast becoming a serious contender for the number 10 Jersey
Unlike McGahan Schmidt had no problem taking off Irish international Sexton and replacing him with the lesser known Madigan. The move paid dividends as Madigan upped the tempo for Leinster and scored a drop goal to deprive Munster of a losing bonus point.
The 23 year old has played International rugby all the way up from Schools to the A side and his composure means it is only a matter of time before he earns full senior honours.
This season he has progressed further playing 20 games scoring 72 points, his best personal display in a blue shirt coming against Aironi when he scored 17 points. Madigan has also shown that he is not just adept with the boot as he has scored 8 tries this season including a Heineken cup try against Bath.