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Danny Barnes and 4 more of the best Pro12 semi-finals

The play-off stage of the league has lived in the shadow of European finals, until now.

PRO12 SEMI-FINALS are an odd beast.

Representing a late chance at silverware for the four teams left after a tough league campaign, they are always poignant affairs. They always provide intensity and drama. They always get crowds digging deep to roar on the home team.

Danny Barnes celebrates his try with Felix Jones and Conor Murray Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

And yet (perhaps because until now they were played a week before the Heineken Cup final) many of them seem to fade from memory just as the switch is hit on the floodlights. 

Here’s the better half of the play-offs we’ve enjoyed so far.

5. Ulster cruise to ‘home’ final

Fourth placed Scarlets made sure this 2013 semi-final was a feisty affair from the off. And you don’t have to wait long for punches to start flying between Andre Trimble and Liam Williams in the video below.

Having been knocked out of the Heineken Cup by Saracens in Twickenham, the league’s top-placed side were in no mood to be derailed at the penultimate hurdle.

Ulster ran out 28 -17 winners, but keep an eye out for the Ravenhill stands under construction – which prompted the province to name the RDS as their preferred venue for the final – and Gareth Davies’ second half try, it was a beaut.

Source: Rugbymeet/YouTube

4. Munster lose out to Heaslip / Sexton- inspired Leinster

In 2010, a week before Leinster’s first stint as Heineken Champions came to an end, Munster went to the RDS hoping to stop Leinster’s dominance in the fixture since the ’09 European semi.

Instead, Jonathan Sexton – not long back from a broken jaw – initiated a trademark loop to send Rob Kearney in for the only try of the 16 – 6 win.

Ronan O’Gara had landed a drop-goal just after the half-time break to edge Munster in the lead, but that was as good as it got for them in this, the second game of the Celtic League’s playoff era.

Source: VicMackey0/YouTube

3. Leinster survive late Warrior attack

Glasgow came within a forward pass of beating Leinster six weeks earlier at the RDS and Gregor Townsend’s men were emboldened by that in the 2013 semi.

Despite Glasgow dominating the breakdown, Leinster went in to the final 10 minutes leading 17 – 10 thanks to a Jamie Heaslip try and four penalties from Sexton. Then, Mark Bennett struck and Joe Schmidt’s side were left standing under the posts hoping.

Source: PRO12 Rugby/YouTube

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2. The Danny Barnes Playoff

In 2011, Munster fans thought they were seeing the future in the semi-final win over Ospreys. Simon Zebo was on the bench, Conor Murray had taken control of the number nine jersey and Danny Barnes blazed a trail from outside centre.

Munster won 18 – 11 thanks to a try either side of half-time from Barnes. ROG kicked a conversion and two penalties to put the result beyond Ospreys, who had Richard Fussell to thank for their try.

Source: schultzjeanbaptiste/YouTube

1. MadDog tears up Ulster lead

The best one was the last one. Last season’s 13 – 9 win for Leinster over Ulster was as pulsating a fixture as they come.

Ulster managed to build a nine-point by the second half and looked well fit to control the game. However, their wastefulness in the 22 came back to haunt them. Paddy Jackson pulled up with a back injury after hitting the third penalty and suddenly the visitors were rudderless.

Jimmy Gopperth created the crucial game-deciding chance, delivering an excellent weighted pass for Madigan to burst on to from 12 and burst over the line.

Source: PRO12 Rugby/YouTube

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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