Munster had been winning plaudits all year for their recalibrated, expansive style, epitomised the afternoon, in hindsight, that they shot their load against Ospreys.
In Saturday’s oval-ball All-Ireland final at a packed Croke Park, Leinster, rank underdogs despite showing rare resilience in squeezing past Harlequins in the quarters, basically out-Munstered the Heineken Cup holders, who simply made too many mistakes to be competitive against a team who seemed hungrier and hit harder, non-stop; to the extent that Paul O’Connell and co looked punch-drunk long before the finish.
As a disappointed and disappointing Ronan O’Gara admitted afterwards, the champions made two or three unforced errors per man. (Not counting Alan Quinlan giving Leo Cullen a free facial; a moment of madness that could cost him his Lions place.) Leinster didn’t make that many mistakes between the lot of them. Such was their mood that you got the feeling Munster could have been there banging away for another hour and they won’t have got over the wide blue line.
And so to Murrayfield later this month. Whatever about Brian O’Driscoll’s chances of capping a monumental season for him personally with European silverware (and one wonders if the Lions captaincy was being issued this week might it have a Dublin address?), after Sunday’s surreal and frankly farcical second semi between winners Leicester and Cardiff Blues, the final pairing sounds like a commentator’s nightmare. If Sky should decide to differentiate the teams by their nicknames, at least they won’t be calling Michael Cheika’s men ‘The Ladyboys’ any longer.