Can Leinster maintain their supremacy over Munster?
Leo Cullen’s side have won four of the last five meetings between the great rivals
Leinster’s Shane Horgan scores a try in the 30-0 Magner’s League win over Munster in October 2009. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Former England coach Stuart Lancaster was talking this week about Munster’s win over Leicester at Welford Road and he said their result was of a greater magnitude than Leinster’s victory over Exeter at the Aviva Stadium.
Lancaster, a senior assistant coach with Leinster, may have had an eye on the St Stephen’s Day Pro14 derby in Thomond Park. But his logic was sound.
Munster had just beaten Leicester in the second game, the away leg of their European Champions Cup back to back matches, while Leinster had defeated Exeter, also for the second time, at home in Dublin.
The point was that an away win is always of greater significance than a home win and because Leicester were under pressure from their home crowd to redress the first defeat and that Welford Road has traditionally been a difficult ground to earn a win, Munster’s result was all the more noteworthy.
Leinster have a chance over Christmas to equal Munster’s European feat by registering an away win in Thomond Park. If they do, Leo Cullen and Lancaster will add to Leinster’s growing tally of having beaten Munster six times in their home ground across all competitions. (That includes three British and Irish Cup matches in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and while those maybe considered outside of the senior team they do not seriously skew the overall thrust of the meetings).
That shows Leinster have won more matches of the 25 played in that period and have been more successful in making raids into the Munster strongholds than Munster have in their visits to Dublin.
Of the 25 games in that time frame Munster have won nine and Leinster have won 16, although the meetings between the sides over the two years, or, five meetings between December 2015 and October 2017 has greatly influenced the Leinster win-loss ratio.
Munster lost at home to Leinster 7-24 in their December Pro12 meeting of 2015. Leinster then won the next two meetings in Dublin 16-13 in April 2016 and 25-14 in October 2016.
Munster won at home 29-17 in December 2016 with Leinster winning the most recent Pro 14 head to head 23-17 in October of this year.
So over the last five matches Leinster have won four times – a trend Munster will be surely motivated to halt.
Munster’s worst defeat was 30-0 in October 2009, which was a massive statement of Leinster intent ahead of the defence of their European title.
Leinster destroyed a 14-man Munster at the RDS after John Hayes’s second-half dismissal. It was out of character but there was no excuse for his stamping on the face of a prone Cian Healy.
However, the incident was just part of the story as Leinster produced what was then their most complete display of the professional era.
The teams have met each other just once during that 10-year period in the then Heineken Cup and that was in May 2009, prior to the 30-0 win. In that respect Leinster can hold the European bragging rights (Munster were European champions in 2005-06, and 2007-08).
On an historic day in Croke Park Leinster reached the Heineken Cup final as they shocked tournament favourites Munster – Stringer, O’Gara, O’Connell, Wallace, Hayes, Flannery et al – in front of what was then a world record attendance for a home match of 82,208 fans.
It was held in Croke Park as Lansdowne Road was being reconstructed into Aviva Stadium but the semi-final was designated Munster’s home game.
This season semi-final matches will be played at venues designated by European Professional Club Rugby, but certain clubs will have home country advantage in their semi-final games.
In any event Michael Cheika’s Leinster side earned some sort of revenge for their defeat to Munster at the same stage of the 2006 competition with Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald and Brian O’Driscoll, this time out, all scoring tries in the 6-25 win.
So, it comes back to what Stuart Lancaster said of the now rather than the past and that is whether an in-form Munster team can begin to nip away at Leinster’s modern-day dominance of the head to heads.
Accepting Lancaster’s analysis of last weekend’s action in the European Champions Cup, if Leinster can follow up their win at home in October with a second victory in Thomond Park it would be similar in the scale of achievements to what Munster did to Leicester.
But one thing is certain, the outcome of these local meetings is rarely entirely predictable.
Last 10 years Leinster v Munster (Home team first)
Nov 2007 – Munster lost 3-10
April 2008 – Leinster won 21-12
Sep 2008 – Leinster lost 0-18
April 2009 – Munster won 22-5
May 2009 – Munster lost 6-25
Oct 2009 – Leinster won 30-0
Oct 2010 – Leinster won 13-9
April 2011 – Munster won 24-3
May 2011 – Munster won 19-9
Nov 2011 – Leinster won 24-19
March 20 12 – Munster lost 9-18
April 2012 – Leinster lost 29-36 *
Oct 2012 – Leinster won30-21
April 2013 – Munster lost 16-22
April 2013 – Munster lost 15-17*
Oct 2013 – Munster won 19-15
March 2014 – Leinster won 22-18
April 2014 –Leinster won 37-17*
Oct 2014 – Leinster lost 23-34
Dec 2014 – Munster won 28-13
Dec 2015 – Munster lost 7-24
April 2016 –Leinster won 16-13
Oct 2016 – Leinster won 25-14
Dec 2016 – Munster won 29-17
Oct 2017 – Leinster won 23-17
*(British and Irish Cup)