Let’s never hear mention of ladyboys again. Not after this. Not after a day where the guts and character they are so sick of hearing is the sole preserve of Munster was Leinster’s to show to the world. They needed something like this to end all questions once and for all about whether or not they can be depended on to turn up. So they put Munster on their backs, tore through them like they weren’t anything special and took a 25-6 win away to qualify for their first ever Heineken Cup final.
Oh, Leinster showed up alright. They carried themselves here like schoolboys who’d decided they’d had enough of being bullied. Enough of the jibes, enough of the name-calling, enough of the not-at-all subtle questioning of their manhood. They came out with the aggression of unleashed attack dogs and tackled like every hit was the last one they’d make. For all that modern sport clings to science and stats, Nobody Believes In Us still takes a lot of beating as a rallying cry.
“I won’t lie, it was important for us to engage with our crowd and make them proud,” said Leinster coach Michael Cheika afterwards. “I know that’s a cliché but it’s true. Win, lose or draw, we want to make them proud. I think it’s more the effort than the result that crowd acknowledged today.”
They had plenty of slings and arrows to endure too. Felipe Contepomi went off with knee ligament damage after 25 minutes but Cheika replaced him with Johnny Sexton like a drummer whipping out a spare stick without missing a beat. The kid had a day from the gods, improving Leinster’s lot with just about every touch. His first touch was a penalty to put his side 6-3 up, his second a cross-kick that almost put Luke Fitzgerald clear. If Contepomi doesn’t recover for the final – and it will be tomorrow before anything concrete is known – Leinster won’t lose a lot with Sexton in this sort of mood.
He wasn’t alone. Where Fitzgerald was scintillating at times, neither of the Munster wings got anything going. Where Rocky Elsom was gigantic throughout, David Wallace was anonymous. Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy ate the Munster midfield whole. Paul O’Connell said afterwards that Leinster were superior in every facet of the game. Nobody argued.
For the defending champions, nothing went as it was supposed to. The number of dropped or misplaced offloads was in double figures and basic handling errors spread through them like a virus. Ronan O’Gara threw one pass so far forward in the first half that even the referee ribbed him about it and knocked a bouncing ball on in the second when the closest Leinster jerseys to him were sitting in the Hogan Stand. One of those days. And there’s a chance that it could get worse for O’Gara’s teammate Alan Quinlan who will have a nervous few days while it’s decided whether or not to cite him over a possible eye-gouging incident with Leo Cullen.
And so it came to pass that by far the least likely scenario in the build up was what played out. Nobody saw this game petering out with the result in Leinster’s pocket a whole 15 minutes from time. And after all the opprobrium they’ve brought on themselves over the years, it gladdened the heart to watch them finally do it.
The tries came from D’Arcy, Fitzgerald and O’Driscoll, each of them perfect in their own way. D’Arcy’s came courtesy of an Isa Nacewa break that left Doug Howlett clutching air and Fitzgerald’s finished a brilliant back-line move with O’Driscoll and Shane Horgan showing deft hands and minds. But it was O’Driscoll’s that put the result beyond any comeback Munster might have mustered, the Man of the Match intercepting an O’Gara pass and streaking the length of the pitch to dot down under the posts.
And so to Edinburgh. Do you doubt them? Can you after this?
"In the context of the reward, as in making the final, it's obviously great in the regard. Confidence can come and go but you've got to believe that you can do it and we just need to keep doing it each week between now and the Heineken Cup final. Obviously we are happy that we have gotten an opportunity to play in the final and we want to do our supporters proud on the day."
"We made a few line-breaks early on but didn't convert and Leinster, to their credit, scrambled really well and were able to turn territory into points. I thought they were superb. Kurt McQuilkin has done a great job with their defence over the past few years and they've proved this season what a tough defensive side they are. I thought today they were outstanding."
"This wasn't about getting revenge for '06. They had already beaten us twice this season so we owed them one. People also had questioned our passion, so it was important we had that today. Maybe that will silence a few of our detractors for a while. Hopefully Felipe [Contepomi] will be okay, but if not Johnny [Sexton] will be there."
"Against Munster you know they pride themselves on the physicality of their pack and we had to match them with our work-rate. Lads fronted up and that was important. So was the way we took our chances. We have been creating chances all year but haven't capitalise on them."
"We didn't play well. We weren't allowed to play well. Leinster dominated us in the pack and we were second place in most facets of the game. They deserved the win."