Prior to the introduction of the Celtic League in 2001, interprovincial clashes mattered little to those other than the hardened supporter. Played in the depths of winter, not even those charged with covering the sport bothered to give the fixtures due attention.
Given their ambivalence towards an ‘All-Ireland’ league, Ulster engaged in the series with added impetus, Munster and Leinster put up a token challenge, while Connacht’s endeavours were deemed largely irrelevant. Indeed, according to Edmund van Esbeck, the westerners only managed to claim 22 victories over their three rivals between 1946 and 1999.
Connacht’s recent resurgence however, embodied by their bonus point win over Pro12 leaders Ulster in October, ensures that the provincial weekend continues to provide all that a rugby fan desires.
Leinster 6-30 Munster
Heineken Cup Semi-Final, Lansdowne Road – 23 April 2006
This was the one that broke new ground. Amidst all the fanfare surrounding Leinster’s heroics in Toulouse, it was Ronan O’Gara who led the nearly men of Munster into the Heineken Cup Final.
In the days leading up to the contest much was made of O’Gara’s impending rendezvous with the mercurial Argentine, Felipe Contepomi. However, buoyed by a sea of red, Munster targeted the hotheaded Puma while O’Gara handed-off Malcolm O’Kelly to sum up what was a miserable afternoon for Leinster.
Connacht 7-6 Leinster
Pro12, Sportground – 26 March 2016
To many it was just a matter of time before Connacht slipped up in their quest for Pro12 glory. Despite an inauspicious start to their campaign, Leinster were a coming force again and expected to trail a blaze to the season’s end.
However, when Kieran Marmion stole over for an opportunistic try after 13minutes prompting a defensive masterclass by his Connacht side, suddenly the rugby world sat up and took notice.
Munster 16- 22 Ulster
Heineken Cup Quarter Final ,Thomond Park – 8 April 2012
In what was the first meeting between the two sides in the Heineken Cup, Ulster became only the second side to come away from Thomond Park with a victory in 17 years.
Despite going behind early in the game, Munster controlled much of the fixture but weary legs proved to be the undoing of Paul O’Connell’s aging side and Ulster held on for a famous win.
Leinster 20-12 Ulster
Magners League, Lansdowne Road – 31 December 2006
This was the afternoon when Brian O’Driscoll pulled off the original selfie. Making as if to pass to Denis Hickie on the wing, the Irish captain sensationally popped the ball over his teammates head and sailed past a floundering Tommy Bowe.
Losing 12-5 at half time, Leinster scores from Owen Finegan and Jamie Heaslip – the last try ever scored at the old Lansdowne Road – secured a satisfying comeback.
Munster 6-25 Leinster
Heineken Cup Semi-Final, Croke Park – 2 May 2009
When Felipe Contepomi pulled up with injury, many Leinster fans looked on anxiously as a young pretender entered the fray.
But with Rocky Elsom to the fore, Leinster dominated their rivals in every aspect of the game, including from the pivot where Jonathon Sexton annonched himself on the European stage in kicking and steering his rampant teammates to a 25-6 victory.