It was on a cold mid-October night last season when the Dragon s fire proved much to searing for Munster and the double, completed five months later, was inspired by visiting full-back Percy Montgomery. So if Munster supporters left Rodney Parade with tails firmly tucked between their legs that October night it was with a gait that was in total contrast to last time Munster visited the cosy little ground on the banks of the River Usk.
Few of us who were at the Heineken Cup game played in January of 2001 will ever forget the atmosphere, the sequence of events, the sheer theatre that the meeting of Munster v Newport provided that afternoon.
Back then they were neither Dragons nor Gwent just plain old Newport, a side with as passionate a support as Munster.
The ground was packed to capacity. The prize ? A place for the winner in the Heineken Cup quarter final.
And how the Gary Teichmann led side set about their task from the off !
They opened up at 100 miles an hour and as every score was racked up, their supporters raucously enquired Who let the Dogs Out .
It was heady stuff. It was bloody worrying stuff because after 20 minutes they were 15 points up and only dogged, last gasp defence kept it at that. You feared for Gaillimh s men at that stage. The kind-hearted amongst us hoped they wouldn t be hosed. They didn t deserve that. But as Gerry Thornley remarked in his match report the following Monday, They (Munster) never cease to amaze really. Even by Munster s extraordinary standards they looked to be in serious trouble at 15-0 down at the end of the first quarter against a rampant Newport in front of a capacity Rodney Parade .
But they hung in there and ten points from Ronan O Gara had them 11 points off the pace (21-10) at the very welcome interval.
And then after, "Who Let The Dogs Out", greeted the returning sides we were treated to an unforgettable second half.
Shane Howarth kicked a penalty, O Gara kicked three and his second drop-goal of the game edged Munster in front.
With the game delicately balanced Newport forced a five metre line-out and John Langford committed an act of grand larceny to snatch a priceless ball from Newport clutches. After that Mike Mullins was sprung from the bench and within moments had glided through to score a cracking try that would decide the outcome.
And suddenly nobody gave a tuppenny damn who had let the dogs out as the Red Army adopted the air of that song and joyously enquired of their devastated black n amber clad terrace colleagues Who Let The Claw Out .
What was a marvellous Munster afternoon was enhanced by the gracious and good-willed manner the Newport supporters accepted their defeat and if their disappointment couldn t allow them join in the celebrations they accepted the good natured antics of what turned out to be a long night with understanding and tolerance.
Keith Grainger the man responsible for injecting the atmosphere into the Rodney Parade that great day went on to become Tournament Director of the Celtic League before, in recent times being appointed to run the professional clubs in Scotland.
Newport wed Ebbw Vale, an arranged marriage that needed Mike Ruddock s diplomacy and stature in the rugby game to help bless the union. Ruddock of course, after a successful year with the new club, went on to be given the reins as Welsh coach.
Munster s coach that day Declan Kidney, also moved onwards and upwards, becoming assistant national coach in Ireland. Perhaps it was not that surprising that when he returned to the club scene it was Newport that caught his attention. Nor was it at all surprising that those honourable Newport people who signed Kidney acted in a human and honourable manner after Leinster finally woke up and came calling.
Last time Munster were back in Rodney Parade the atmosphere was nothing like that magic day in January. Times had changed and it needs the Heineken Cup to stir the fondest memories. The talk was that the union of Ebbw and Newport wasn t exactly a match made in heaven. Change can take little time. Adapting to change can take a long time. But one would hope that if the good people who now support Newport Gwent Dragons could only experience what we experienced on the 13th January in 2001 then they d be sold forever on their new side.
Munster XV ( v Newport 13th January 2001). Dominic Crotty; John O Neill, John Kelly, Killian Keane, Anthony Horgan; Ronan O Gara, Peter Stringer; Peter Clohessy, Frankie Sheahan, John Hayes, John Langford, Mick Galwey; David Wallace, Alan Quinlan, Anthony Foley. Replacement used Mike Mullins.