It was a special night in Cork on Saturday 4 February 2024, the Crusaders facing off against Munster in front of a crowd of nearly 41,000.
Our boys in red and black fell short at the death, the scoreboard reading 21-19 to Munster when the final whistle blew. But this was more than a scoreline or 80 minutes of rugby – this was an exhibition of two teams who are respective champions in their own domains.
Munster are defending their United Rugby Championship title as we speak, and the Crusaders are weeks away from doing the same with Super Rugby Pacific. The crowd knew they were buying a ticket to an historic clash – the first 30,000 selling out in 24 hours. It was the first time defending champions from the two competitions have met.
The Irish crowd fell silent as Taha Kemara led a rare Crusaders pre-game haka at Páirc Uí Chaoimh before maintaining full voice for the duration.
Tries from Mitch Drummond, Dallas McLeod and Jamie Hannah earned cheers from those who woke early Sunday morning back in New Zealand, the extras added by Taha Kemara and his replacement Rivez Reihana.
Equally, Gavin Coomhes and Scott Buckley touched down for three tries, two to Coomhes, for the hosts Munster. Joey Carbery nailed his three conversions and Coombes went on to be named Player of the Match.
A significant part of Munsters culture and history is linked to their success against touring sides. They beat the All Blacks at Thomond Park in 1978, the first time an Irish side had beaten the boys in black.
That victory has become part of Munster folklore, and no doubt their victory over the Crusaders on Saturday will add to their rich tapestry.