Munster v Leicester: History favours province – but not form

Leicester have lost only one of their last 29 home matches in European competition

A curious anomaly of European matches between the Leicester Tigers and Munster is that the home side has yet to be victorious.

Leaving aside the Tigers' 15-9 Heineken Cup final victory over their rivals in 2002, a game played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, it is the visiting team that has held sway.

The most recent example was last weekend’s match at Thomond Park when the home side were unusually hospitable in helping the visitors to a 31-19 victory. It was a second straight win for the English club at the venue. The Tigers were the first side to beat Munster in their Limerick citadel in 2007, when Pat Howard’s side prevailed 13-6.

That was the final match of the pool stage that year and it was a measure of revenge for Leicester as Munster had travelled to Welford Road in the opening game and escaped with the points courtesy of a 51-metre penalty by Ronan O’Gara in horrible underfoot conditions.


The Irish province outscored their hosts by two tries to one, through Donncha O’Callaghan and David Wallace.

Howard said in the aftermath: “It put some good pressure on us; it’s going to be a great test of what sort of mettle we’ve got. It was a very close contest, and we probably had a couple more chances than Munster did, but they took their try-scoring opportunities. That’s life.”

His players gave him the answer he craved. The Tigers went all the way to the final at Twickenham, before losing to Wasps 25-9. Munster also escaped the pool but they went down in the quarter-final 24-15 to the Scarlets in west Wales.

Munster had also won on their previous visit to Welford Road, beating Leicester 20-7 in a quarter-final (2003).

The merit of that achievement – Ronan O'Gara and Peter Stringer scoring tries and the outhalf kicking the rest of the tally – is that the Tigers were chasing a third consecutive European title, having won in 2001 and 2002. It was some measure of revenge for Munster, who were the victims in that 2002 final.


The Alan Gaffney-coached Munster went on to lose 13-12 to Toulouse in the semi-final at Le Stadium.

Leicester have lost nine times at 'home' in Europe, eight at Welford Road and once in a semi-final against Toulouse at the King Power Stadium, home of the current Premier League leaders, Leicester City.

In the 16 seasons of back-to-back matches in rounds three and four, Leicester have won both games seven times, a roll of hour that includes doubles over Perpignan, Béziers, Wasps, Ospreys, Bourgoin, Benetton Treviso and Montpellier; Munster offer an opportunity for an eighth.

During the same timeframe and match parameters, the Irish province has lost both games just once, and that was last season when Clermont Auvergne won 16-9 at Thomond Park and then the following weekend beat Munster 26-19 at the Stade Marcel Michelin.

Delving further into the Tigers’ European history at home we find the statistic that Leicester have only lost once at Welford Road in the last 29 matches – 26 wins and two draws. That defeat came against Ulster two seasons ago.

The Leicester players and management have chosen their words carefully this week, mindful no doubt of Munster’s record at Welford Road and also denying them any motivational material. Captain Ed Slater said: “Munster are a great side, Thomond Park is an extremely difficult place to come and win so we’re really proud that we’ve been able to do it.

“The pool is not finished and I’m sure Munster are going to come and give us a massive challenge at Welford Road.”


Munster coach, Anthony Foley, may draw on personal experience as he was the number eight on the two occasions that Munster won at Welford Road and in the context of how the pool stands, how dearly he'd like to make that a notable hat-trick.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer