They may have finished fifth and outside the play-offs this year, a full 16 points adrift of Matt O’Connor’s side, but the spectre of the Ospreys still hangs over Leinster when the day of a PRO12 final draws near.
Twice, in 2010 and again two years later, the Welsh outfit braved the bastion that is the RDS on the day of reckoning in the ‘domestic’ league and on both occasions they chiselled out unlikely title triumphs.
Now here Leinster are, in a fifth straight decider, but hoping to win just their second title in that time given Munster punctured that pair of Ospreys losses with another reversal down in Thomond Park three seasons ago.
On Saturday it will be Glasgow Warriors’ turn to try and play the part of party pooper and the threat they bring was summed up by Rob Kearney earlier this week when he suggested Gregor Townsend’s side had been the form outfit of this year’s competition.
“You go up against teams like Ospreys or Glasgow who’ve got quality players and play like a team,” said Jamie Heaslip. “They know what they’re about and what shape they want to play. They’ve got their patterns down, they’ve got the players to execute it and they can cause you problems. If you don’t bring your ‘A’ game, they’re going to take their chances. That’s what happened in the past against Ospreys. Last year it could have gone either way (in the semi at the RDS).
“There was only one score between ourselves and Glasgow. That was down to the ball that we held up over the line when they looked to be in for a try. It could have been a very different game so we know it all too well what it’s going to take.”
Heaslip kicked off the week by chaperoning his niece at the One Direction gig at Croke Park, Niall Horan’s love of rugby engineering them an audience with four of the five pint-sized poppets in the Irishman’s dressing-room.
Brownie points secured forever, then. Leinster could do with some of their own right now, their status as table-toppers after the regular season disguising the fact that their play was less fluid than seasons past and with their status as European elite challenged by another early Heineken exit. Not that Heaslip would admit as much.
“We don’t sit down and go ‘okay, we want to win this; we want to win that’. Those days are gone. It’s more about ‘what do we want to be known as? What do you want your team-mate to say about you? What do you want the guys who play against you to say about you? And say about your club?
“They’re the things we try and build towards and judge ourselves on. As a club, we’ve probably done better than we did last year. We didn’t get out of our group in the Heineken Cup last year. We got out of our group (this time) and we’re in the same situation in that we’re in the final again this year. We’re one step ahead.”
Heaslip’s take is that Leinster can only do their best. Do that and they will have to accept the outcome come what may. Accept that they were beaten by the better team. Like when Toulon had their number in Europe in the last eight.
The only problem that day was Leinster didn’t do their best. They fell short of their own standards. Heaslip accepts that much. Another dip in standards and their poor rate of return in this fixture could get even worse.
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