05 April, 2011

lreland is now home to the biggest club rugby game in the World:

Follow hoogenband0110 on Twitter
ALWAYS EXPLOSIVE:   Munster v Leinster
Munster overcame massive odds to beat Leinster having trailed by 9-20 at half-time in what is now the biggest club rugby game in the World. It would be too simplistic to suggest the half-time interval turned this game around - but it certainly had a major effect.
So clinically efficient were Leinster in the first half that the last thing they needed was a break. With the score 20-9, the feeling was of  Europe's form team being home and hosed, irrespective of the temporary halt to their gallop. Munster couldn't get into the dressing-room quickly enough to re-group reassess and reinvent themselves. And how.
What reappeared was the Munster of old, as possession was regained from the restart and straight away Damien Varley ran hard and straight at Leinster's previously impregnable defence, making massive inroads for the first time in the match. Slowly but surely the tide was turned. By any standard it was an extraordinary transformation - similar to the Gloucester 'miracle match' in 2003 at the (almost) impregnable fortress that is Thomond Park.

The fortress that is Thomond Park
It was suggested to me recently that Thomond, much like Lansdowne, had lost its atmosphere of late. What utter nonsense.

As Ronan O'Gara chipped away at the 11 point lead; you sensed that here was the Munster of old and the 16th man was to the fore again. The citadel was heaving as players and fans were reunited as one. Someone suggested to me recently that Thomond, much like Lansdowne, had lost its atmosphere of late. What nonsense. Ireland against England at the Aviva and Saturday's game at Thomond showed a crowd totally dedicated to their team. In Limerick, it's extra special.
TRUE UNSUNG HERO:  David Wallace (with ball)
I don't know what it is about Thomond, but you rarely come away from a big match not feeling better about the game, about yourself and about the world. Any visit to the high altar of Irish rugby has a spiritual element attached. There is simply nowhere like Thomond for the Heineken Cup, or for travelling teams and supporters from all over the world.
But back to last Saturday's rip-roaring encounter. Fifteen scores, 14 of them coming by way of the boot, with just a single try - yet this was a classic in which every player contributed. I cannot think of a poor performance on either side but there were certainly outstanding individual ones to savour - and with due respect to official man-of-the-match O'Gara, the concept of picking one player is absurd in a game like this. When all the momentum was with Leinster in the first half, it was David Wallace and James Coughlan who withstood the physical battering and led time and again off the back foot. That's real courage and leadership in the face of adversity.
O'Gara also stood firm despite the physical knocks -- one in the kidneys in a clash with the equally gutsy Jonny Sexton and a second to the cheekbone off Luke Fitzgerald's head. He stayed focused before displaying not just nerves of steel, but remarkable courage to step up and take the match-winning kick. This was in the same mould as Denis Taylor's black-ball finish for the snooker World Championship or Graeme McDowell's putt on the 16th at Celtic Manor which sealed the Ryder Cup. Courage with a capital C.
Last Saturday's game was magnificent  for Irish rugby and was a true reflection on the current health of the game here. Classic with a capital C.
Follow hoogenband0110 on Twitter

No comments:

Post a Comment