On April 2nd, 2010, Devin Toner started his first Munster-Leinster derby at Thomond Park when part of a 16-15 win. This game was rescheduled due to the Ed Sheeran concerts here but a dozen years on to the day, Toner's farewell tour has had another rewarding night on the road.
A week ago the Sportsground, this time Thomond Park, and Toner made little secret that as away grounds go, there’s no more special place to win for a died-in-the-wool Leinsterman.
“There’s no better place to win than Thomond. Firstly, the Sportsground and then here, but to win here is extra special. There’s not really much more to say but yeah absolutely, delighted with the win and how we fronted up and how the set-piece went and stuff like that.
“Obviously it’s kind of hard for the Irish guys to come back in and learn new lineout calls and learn new phases plays and stuff. So I think the lads did really well to get across all that info. I was pleased with how the set-piece went today.
“Yeah, it’d be up there. Probably my favourite place to win I suppose,” Toner admitted. “But you see with that first lineout, I called and called but no one heard because of the crowd. That’s something to be proud of here, the crowd is brilliant. But it’s good to keep them quiet as well, from our point of view.”
As to where this ranks?
“There’s a few wins but nothing in particular stands out. There were a couple of Christmas games that we won but other than that it’s just getting the wins generally.”
Toner’s imperious presence at the lineout was the launching pad for some of Leinster’s perfectly choreographed strike plays, proving he still adds value and fuelling his ambition to sign off with two more winners’ medals.
"It's huge, especially around the secondrows there's a huge amount of competition as well. 'Cheese' might be coming back in soon, ie James Ryan, and obviously Bairdo has a bit of a back problem but he'll be back soon as well. [Ross [Molony] is playing some of the best rugby of his career at the minute and then you've got a 20-year-old in Joe McCarthy who's playing phenomenal as well and Jack Dunne played great today.
“So there’s a lot of secondrows and there’s only three spots. But that competition breeds great teams, so happy to be a part of it.”
Toner knows he’ll be leaving Leinster in good hands, and not just in the secondrow, with another hard-carrying, all-action performance by Caelan Doris underlining Leinster’s world-class factory line of talent.
“Yeah, he’s class,” admitted Toner. “He’s really good at just seeing space. Like sometimes I’ll be going around the corner and he’d be getting a shoulder line off this side. He just sees space and he’s really able to just kind of keep on his feet and just get over that gainline. He’s been phenomenal for the team, absolutely.”
Asked if Leinster performances such as this might make it more difficult for him to retire, the 35-year-old looked utterly incredulous.
“How difficult it will be to retire? From playing that type of rugby?” Toner said, repeating the question. “Well if I can keep up with them I’ll be doing well to be honest. Ah no, I think because I’m coming to the end I just want to win as much as I can and be a part of it as much as I can and add value wherever I’m needed.
"But, ah, I don't think it will be that hard," he said with a laugh, and prompting one from Leo Cullen alongside him.
“As long as I’ve got two medals in my pocket!”