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Throwback Thursday: Five classic Leicester Tigers v Munster clashes

Throwback Thursday: Five classic Leicester Tigers v Munster clashes

It’s a rivalry packed with euphoria, heartbreak, and trophies, and is widely considered to be one of European rugby’s greatest feuds.

Leicester Tigers and Munster go head-to-head again this weekend in the Champions Cup and the Tigers have a point to prove after a heavy defeat to the Guinness PRO14 side last year.

However, they will always be able to reflect fondly on their 2002 European final victory, which is undoubtedly one of the club’s greatest ever days, while they have generally had the better of their Irish rivals.

Here we look back on five classic contests ahead of Saturday night’s clash at Thomond Park.

Leicester Tigers 18-16 Munster, 2016

Where better to start than the most recent fixture late last year when the Tigers exacted revenge in a nail-biting contest?

Just seven days after a heavy 38-0 defeat across the Irish Sea, Leicester battled and scrapped to a narrow win courtesy of a late Owen Williams penalty.

In a match where the kicking game ruled and running rugby was hardly seen, Williams and Tyler Bleyendaal exchanged two penalties each in the first half.

Munster looked like winning it when Niall Scannell crossed but Williams was on cue to smack a long-range penalty to secure the win.

Munster 6-13 Leicester Tigers, 2007

Thomond Park is regarded as one of the toughest away days in European rugby and Leicester are certainly up against it on Saturday night.

But if they can use their victory there ten years ago against the then champions as inspiration then they have every chance.

The Tigers created history and became the first ever side to beat Munster at Thomond Park in its last game before redevelopment in January 2007 when tries from Geordan Murphy and Ollie Smith sealed a famous win.

Led by Martin Corry, Leicester produced an intense display to reach the last eight and they eventually got to the final – where they lost to rivals Wasps.

Leicester Tigers 15-9 Munster, 2002

Saracens may be the current kings of Europe but Leicester Tigers were the first English side to fully conquer the continent and they underlined their early-21st Century dominance against Munster in 2002.

Dean Richards’ men arrived in Cardiff just weeks after securing an unprecedented fourth straight Premiership title and looking to defend the European crown they won the season before.

In a scrappy game, Munster led for much of the contest through Ronan O’Gara penalties until Austin Healey darted over with 20 minutes left and Tim Stimpson landed a late penalty.

However, the match may be best remembered for the notorious ‘Hand of Back’ incident where Tigers’ flanker Neil Back disrupted an attacking Munster scrum in the dying minutes to secure the win.

Munster 19-31 Leicester Tigers, 2015

The double header mid-way through the pool is always crucial in determining who progresses and who falls short and there is no better example than when Leicester and Munster met twice in 2015.

The first of those encounters took place at Thomond Park and Leicester arrived top of an intriguing group which also contained Stade Francais and Benetton Rugby.

And they left with a clinical victory, punishing every Munster error with tries from Vereniki Goneva, Mike Fitzgerald and Ben Youngs.

Leicester were forced to dig deep in order to survive off an early Munster onslaught and they capitalised after with a ruthless attacking display.

Leicester Tigers 17-6 Munster, 2015

Just eight days after that disappointing defeat, Munster packed their bags and headed to the East Midlands for the reverse tie.

Victory for the Irish side would have closed the gap between the pair and injected renewed hope and expectation of a quarter-final place.

But defeat all but ended their European charge and hurled Leicester into a home quarter-final with Stade Francais.

Ian Keatley kicked two penalties for Munster but Leicester simply overpowered them at a packed Welford Road as tries from Ed Slater and Goneva secured victory.

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