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Dublin: 7 °C Sunday 16 December, 2018

5 games that prove Munster v Leicester is one of the best rivalries in European rugby

From the infamous Hand of Back to the end of fortress Thomond.

Ronan O'Gara runs at Leicester during the 2002 European Cup final.
Ronan O'Gara runs at Leicester during the 2002 European Cup final.
Image: INPHO

TWO OF THE giants of European rugby clash once again this weekend when Munster host Leicester in Pool 4 of the European Rugby Champions Cup [Kick off: Saturday, 7.45pm, Thomond Park].

Both are double European champions, though it’s been a long time since either has lifted the trophy. However, that doesn’t make this clash any less compelling.

Indeed, it remains one of the best rivalries in European rugby with controversy and quality aplenty.

Ahead of Saturday’s encounter, here are some of our favourites:

2002 – European Cup final – Leicester 15-9 Munster

Source: Edd Armitage/YouTube

Leicester came into the game as defending champions, and tries by Geordan Murphy and Austin Healy had them in control for most of the contest. However, three Ronan O’Gara penalties meant Munster were within a converted try of winning their first European title.

With the province in a promising position underneath the posts, Peter Stringer fed the ball in only for Neil Back to illegally bat it down, giving Leicester possession and ultimately the win.

2003 – European Cup Quarter-Final - Leicester 7 Munster 20

Donncha O'Callaghan celebrates Donncha O'Callaghan celebrates victory. Source: INPHO

Still nursing their wounds from the previous year’s Hand of Back moment, Munster showed all the intensity that defined their time at the top of European Rugby in the rematch at Welford Road.

The Irish side led 13-7 with five minutes remaining and it looked like a nervy ending was in store. However, Stringer rounded off a brilliant move to dethrone the two-time champions.

2006 – European Cup Pool Stages – Leicester 19-21 Munster

Paul O'Connell and Ronan O'Gara watch a penalty go over the bar 22/10/2006 O'Gara watches his match-winning penalty sail over the bar. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Donnacha O’Callaghan must have thought he’d be the reason this game is remembered as he galloped more than 40m to give Munster a 15-6 half-time lead in Welford Road.

However, the hosts fought back and, with time running out, had a 19-18 lead. Step forward Ronan O’Gara who, in torrential rain, drilled a 50m penalty to give Munster the victory.

2007 – European Cup Pool Stages – Munster 6-13 Leicester

Paul O'Connell wins the ball in the lineout over Leo Cullen Leo Cullen and Paul O'Connell contest a line-out in the final game at the old Thomond Park. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It wasn’t supposed to end like this. The final game at the old Thomond Park saw the home side come in with qualification for the knockout stages in the bag and an unbeaten European record to defend.

However, the Tigers had to win to stay alive in the 2006/07 competition and, on a blustery day, ruined Munster’s unblemished record, thanks in large part to thanks in large part to Ian Humphreys and Geordan Murphy.

2016 – European Cup Pool Stages -  Leicester 18-16 Munster

CJ Stander with LeicesterÕs Manu Tuilagi after the game CJ Stander dejected after the match. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Having being hosed 38-0 the week before, Leicester exacted some measure of revenge in the Pool stage rematch. It looked like Munster had the win in the bag after Niall Scannell crossed the whitewash and Tyler Bleyendaal added the extras to give the province a 16-15 lead with four minutes remaining.

However, this time Owen Williams would prove to be the hero as he made no mistake with a penalty from miles out as time expired to give the Tigers a crucial win.

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