The two time champions of Europe clash with the Conquerors of Munster. A team that won its match via a football styled penalty shootout plays against an Irish province that avenged years of insult by demolishing the modern darlings of European domestic competition.
Let us not doubt the legitimacy of the Tigers. This is their fifth European final, equalling three time champions Toulouse’s record of five final appearances.
If the side that Martin Johnson led to supremacy in back to back titles at the turn of the century defeats Leinster, then they themselves will join the afore mentioned French province’s haul of three of European rugby’s most decorated “domestic” championships.
Debate still reigns over the concept of the shootout at the end. Surely, there is a better way.
Many believe they have the solution, with some experts – Phil Kearns among them – that you take a player off in a period of extra time, then another, and so on. Until what, we have the two last remaining props playing bull rush with each other?
I believe the best option is the concept of a golden point period. In the extraordinary circumstance that you do not have a winner after 100 minutes of rugby, then play an unlimited period where the first score takes the victory.
Could we imagine if a World Cup final was decided in this manner?
As for Leinster, they join compatriots Munster and Ulster as Irish teams to make the final of Europe. Long living in the shadow of the red army, we saw Brian O’Driscoll, former Blues back Isa Nacewa and ex Wallaby Rocky Elsom stand up to the red jerseys of Munster.
Plastered around Munster’s own home, is the phrase “stand up and fight”.
But it was Leinster that stood.
And hence Munster was ousted 25-6. And so the reign of the two time champion ends, and not without a rueful reaction by some; these Munster men represent a near quarter of the British and Irish Lions, and were thoroughly beaten amongst a crowd of some 82,000.
Would Ian McGeechan have been looking at the end result in some shock? After all, this is a team that one could have imagined the Lions would be formed around.
As great All Black sides have been modelled around the heart of Auckland or Canterbury, mighty Wallaby teams formed amongst Brumbies players—the Lions may now not rely so heavily on the men of the red army.
Still, at least consolation can be taken from the fact that there were key Lions present in the Leinster side. But such solace will not be taken from the fact that former Wallaby Rocky Elsom, was almost single handed in his upsetting of any rhythm for Munster at the ruck.
A player uncanny in his similarities to any number of Springbok loose forwards.
But now we come to this.
The final of two teams that in Murrayfield will earn the right to call themselves champions of Europe; on 23 May, one week before the British Lions begin their assault on South Africa.
Head to heads and respective championships record:
Finished Guinness Premiership Season (after 22 rounds):
Ranked first after regular season: 15 wins, six losses, one draw
Best points for, third best points against
Next match: Semi final against Bath @ Walkers Stadium, 9 May 2009
Unfinished Magners League (after 16 rounds)
Ranked Third: 10 wins, five losses, one draw
Third best points for, second best points against
Next match: Regular season against Scarlets @ Royal Dublin Society, 8 May 2009
HEAD TO HEAD @ Heineken Cup
Played 7, Leicester 4, Leinster 3
Last match: 2 April 2005, Leinster 13 – 29 Leicester
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