Today marks 14 years since Munster won their first Heineken Cup.
That special day in Cardiff will live long in the memory as Munster finally got their hands on the European trophy after six years of heartbreak which included two final and three semi-final appearances.
The men in red edged out Biarritz on a final scoreline of 23-19 but it was Peter Stringer’s excellent quick thinking at the end of the first half which had a big say in the outcome of that game in 2006.
The southern province conceded an early controversial try to Sereli Bobo after just two minutes although replays suggest the winger had his foot in touch just before he scored in the corner.
Munster responded with a penalty from Ronan O’Gara and a converted try from Trevor Halstead but Dimitri Yachvili then levelled matters with a 22nd-minute penalty.
With the game tied at 10-10, Stringer scored his famous try down the blindside of a scrum, leaving French legend Serge Betsen and winger Bobo dumbfounded.
It was a superb piece of quick-thinking from the Cork scrum-half and although it looked like it was a spur of the moment incident, Stringer had actually prepared for a scenario just like this as he describes in his autobiography, ‘Pulling The Strings’, released in 2015.
“I dreamed of scoring a try the night before, and woke up on the morning of the final, wishing that it had been a reality,” Stringer wrote.
“I’d also pictured another scenario – literally. I had a simple Nokia 6230i, the first decent camera phone on which you could watch video clips. Our video analyst, George Murray, had put together clips of Biarritz and I converted them into the correct format for my phone. The screen measured about a square inch, the tiniest screen imaginable.
“The day before the game, on the bus journey back to our hotel from the Millennium [Stadium], I showed it to a few of the lads. I was showing off because they’d have to wait until we arrived back at the hotel to view the rest of the video analysis on computer. I had noticed from my analysis that their left-winger, Sireli Bobo, had a tendency to drift infield from the blindside at scrums. I hadn’t mentioned it to anybody. This was my thing and nobody else needed to know about it.
“But by the day of the game, I’d forgotten about it. I was too busy with my own calls, how we’d play, what patterns we’d use. Then, in the thirty-first minute, with the score 10–10, a scrum went down about ten metres from their line to the right of the posts, leaving a corridor of about ten metres on their blindside. I realized it was on.
“Time seemed to stand still, although it all happened in less than half a minute. I put the ball into the scrum and as I moved to the base I saw, out of the corner of my eye, that Bobo had started to inch infield. I turned my back on their scrum-half, Dimitri Yachvili, as if intending to pass across my body to Rog. I had to keep my eye on the ball, not turn my head for another look.
“For all I knew, Bobo had gone back to the short side and was eyeballing me through the back of my head. But I couldn’t risk checking. Those couple of seconds at the back of the scrum seemed like an eternity. Will I go for it? Will I go for the safe option? Will I hit Rog or what will I do? Will I go for it? Will I go for it?”
“If I had run into Bobo, or their blindside flanker Serge Betsen, I would have looked like a fool. But at that moment, when I bent down, my body took over. I went for it. I knew that my first few steps had to be towards the touchline. Otherwise, regardless of whether Betsen was expecting me or not, I’d have just run into him. If he wasn’t expecting me, I’d be able to beat him, once I straightened up. As soon as I turned my shoulders around, I sprinted.
“What I’d hoped would happen did happen. Bobo had wandered infield and Betsen was stuck to the scrum. Nobody touched me. An unbelievable feeling. One of the best feelings of my life on a rugby pitch. I didn’t show any emotion. I didn’t celebrate. I knew only half an hour had gone. I didn’t want to be jumping around.
“No matter who scored tries on my teams, I’d always turn immediately and run back for the kick-off. I was never one for celebrating back then. I haven’t seen Donncha O’Callaghan in a while, but ever since that day his opening line to me every single time, in his best Ryle Nugent accent, is: ‘He’s fooled them all, he’s fooled them all.’”