IT was the Heineken Cup pool match that kept on giving. For several days after the dust had settled on Munster’s epic 2003 Miracle Match victory over Gloucester at Thomond Park, the match hogged the headlines.
Gloucester’s sense of embarrassment was heightened to the story of the Limerick taxi driver who discovered the ‘cherry and whites’ game plan on the floor of his car on the eve of the game, before passing it on the Munster team management.
Gloucester, then leading the English Premiership, visited Limerick with their quarter-final place all but sewn up.
Munster would have to score four tries and win by a margin of at least 27 points to steal it from them.
That they succeeded, when Ronan O’Gara converted a try in the 80th minute to achieve a lead of exactly 27 points, has passed into Munster folklore alongside the day they beat the All Blacks in 1978.
Gloucester had a shocking, humiliating day. They were utterly undone at the set pieces, their lineout fell to bits and, as the pressure mounted, they began to argue among themselves.
From the moment Anthony Foley led Munster out to mark his 50th Heineken Cup appearance, the capacity 12,500 crowd were deafening in their support.
It is easy to forget that Munster went into the game on the back of a thumping 23-8 defeat to Perpignan.
Hooker Frankie Sheahan gathering up all the criticism of Munster’s display in France to present a damning dossier on the eve of the match.
“I cut out a few newspaper articles during the week and produced them on Friday night,” Sheahan said.
“They were mostly from the Irish papers but I think Jeremy Guscott was quoted as saying the Gloucester pack would destroy the Munster pack.
“I don’t know if they exactly destroyed us today, do you?
“These are the little things we use to motivate ourselves. I don’t know if it’s an Irish thing or a Munster thing but we work in funny ways.”
After a bad tempered opening few minutes, O’Gara and Ludovic Mercier traded penalties.
Tries from wingers John Kelly and Mossie Lawler saw the home side 16-6 to the good at half-time.
With just over 20 minutes left Mick O’Driscoll added a third try, but it wasn’t until Kelly’s second touchdown and O’Gara’s terrific conversion that Munster were through.
MUNSTER - Jeremy Staunton; John Kelly, Mike Mullins, Jason Holland, Mossie Lawler; Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Frankie Sheahan, John Hayes; Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Jim Williams (captain), Anthony Foley, Alan Quinlan.
- Here we pick out some of the best pictures from that game from the archives on www.sportsfile.com