Munster and Leinster – Champions Cup Semi Finals 2018
Munster and Leinster have made the 2018 Champions Cup semi finals where Leinster face Scarlets take on Leinster in the Aviva Stadium and Munster head for France to take on Racing 92.Both teams won their respective quarter finals in Dublin and Limerick. Munster defeated Toulon 20-19 and Leinster saw off Saracens 30-19.
Both teams have certainly been buoyed by the Ireland Grand Slam win during the 6 Nations. For Munster this is a second consecutive semi final after last season’s defeat to Saracens in Dublin. For Leinster after being beaten last year in France was hard to stomach so both sides will want to right the wrongs of last year and make the Final which is fixed for Bilbao on May 12th.
This is another chance for Munster to make a first European Final since 2008 and you can only dine out on past glories for so long , Its time this new crop wrote their own piece of Munster history. They will take on Racing 92 who will have Dan Carter and Donnacha Ryan to spear head there challenge. They were beaten by Saracens in 2016 in the City Ground Nottingham.
For Carter it may well be a swansong because he leaves for Japan at the end of the year and for that reason alone he will want to help Racing win a first European crown. Munster have made the last four in the past few years and have always come up short and they will be on their own mission to cross the threshold and make a European Final for the first time since 2008.
Before that both Leinster and Munster have domestic matters to deal with , Munster are in South Africa for two weeks and Leinster are more local starting with the RDS this weekend. European matters will be parked for a few weeks and revisited the week leading into the Semi’s.
Leinster were very creative and sparkled at times as they saw off Saracens who won the title in 2016 and 2017. The likes of Isa Nacewa and Gary Ringrose were dominate in the centre along with the partnership of Ryan and Toner who picked off a number of Saracens line outs where they outclassed Itoje and Kruis.
Men like Dan Leavy and Jordi Murphy dominated the breakdown and also the tempo with which Leinster played the game at. They were full value for their victory and will now go into the Semi Final looking to make a first Final since winning a third European crown in 2012.
Munster left it late on Saturday when Andrew Conway crashed over to set up the chance for Ian Keatley to knock over the extra two that put Munster a point in front and they held on to gain another massive win. Yes they certainly rode their luck but many teams have had to do the same to get top the finishing line.
I was reviewing the game before I sat down to write this and I found myself in the footage as the final scrum is being set up and you can even see the intent and desire in me and I was in the stand now multiply that by 26,000 and you get some idea of the atmosphere in Limerick.
Time now for both teams to push forward and make their mark in Europe, roll on the weekend of the 20th and 21st of April… For now its domestic matters so let’s enjoy the build up and then we can enjoy the Semi Finals….
Cian Mc Gibney