Only Munster had something tangible to play for in front of an attendance of 21,411 at the Aviva Stadium and in the endgame to a richly entertaining contest it wasn’t entirely clear if the Munster players were sure of the consequences of earning zero, one or two points.
Losing by 10 meant zero and an away quarter-final against Ulster. Losing with one bonus point would have led to a quarter-final away to the Bulls while two losing points courtesy of a fourth try would have earned a last eight tie in Thomond Park against the Bulls.
The third option was obviously the most desirable, but option two – ie acquiring nothing – was perhaps preferable in saving them a trip to South Africa. That said, the winners of the Ulster-Munster quarter-final in a fortnight could well be making a trip to Cape Town against the Stormers.
“Jack [O’Donoghue] and I spoke about all the different scenarios this morning,” Johann van Graan revealed after their 35-25 defeat.
“After the Stormers result, we knew if we wanted to get second, we needed five points. And then what happens if you have four points, three points plus four tries, two points, one point and zero points.
“The message when Leinster kicked that last penalty was if we score one more try, we have got four tries and we are within seven, so that’s what we went for to get us the two points, which would have had us at home. But that wasn’t to be.
“We potentially overplayed but we were looking for the penalty to hopefully get us into the corner to hopefully get that fourth try and two points. But it wasn’t to be.”
Munster did win on their last visit there four weeks ago, although that was when Ulster were suffering from their Heineken Champions Cup two-legged defeat by Toulouse.
“That’s the way the chips have fallen now,” said Van Graan, who admitted his side weren’t clinical enough. “We performed well the previous time we went up there but this is going to be a knock-out game, a quarter-final to progress further in the competition.
“Ulster are a quality side, a good forward pack with a good kicking game. It will be a new competition now, eight teams in it and if you want to go further you’ve got to win your quarter-final and that’s what we need to do against Ulster.”
Leinster turn their attention now to next week’s Champions Cup final, after which they will now host Glasgow in the URC quarter-finals knowing that the prize for winning will be a home semi-final against the winners of the Bulls-Sharks South African derby.
Leo Cullen said it was "a really pleasing result, and lots of good stuff in the game. Right from the start Ryan Baird goes up, gets a hand on it, we get the ball down and it leads to a score inside the first couple of minutes of the game. Lots of really good stuff. Munster had their moments as well.
“Overall we’re delighted to get the win. You see guys growing in terms of the experience bit, and you want them to be better in the future. And to get through that in front of over 30,000 people, it’s fantastic.”
If any player appeared to play his way into next week's matchday squad it was the fleet-footed Jordan Larmour.
“Yeah exactly, it was great for him, and very, very pleasing,” said Cullen. “That’s what we said about guys timing their run at this time of the year. So yeah, there’s plenty for us to think about for sure.”
This also includes an injury to Ciarán Frawley, who was on the bench against Toulouse and could be vying with Larmour for the number 23 jersey, although Cullen confirmed that his inside centre had not failed an HIA.
“No he had a cut on his chin as well, so he’s come through his HIA piece but he ran out of time because he was getting his chin stitched. Anyway, that was the decision that was made there but he’s come through his HIA already.”
Sadly, academy scrumhalf Cormac Foley looked to suffer a more serious shoulder injury after marking a lively first home start with his first Leinster try – probably the best of the game's seven tries after Larmour initiated with a mesmerising counterattack.
“Cormac [Foley] with his shoulder is probably the worst of them all,” admitted Cullen. “So we’ll get him assessed but he was the one that was most in discomfort there.”
URC quarter-finals (Fri, Jun 3rd & Sat, Jun 4th)
1 Leinster v Glasgow Warriors
2 DHL Stormers v Edinburgh
3 Ulster v Munster
4 Vodacom Bulls v Cell C Sharks
Semi-finals (Fri, June 10th and Sat Jun 11th)
Leinster or Glasgow v Bulls or Sharks
Stormers or Edinburgh v Ulster or Munster.
Shield winners 2021/22
Irish Shield: Leinster
South African Shield: DHL Stormers
Welsh Shield: Ospreys
Scottish & Italian Shield: Edinburgh