As Munster face into a must-win clash with Castres, we look back at the times when the Reds stood up and fought when it came to the crunch. 

1996/97

Emile Ntamack of Toulouse and Dominic Crotty of Munster

In the second season of the new Heineken Cup competition, Munster arrived at holders Toulouse with two wins from three games – the same as their hosts – and a win would have meant qualification from a five-team pool, which also contained Cardiff, London Wasps and Milan.

Instead they found a home side, captained by Emile Ntamack, in no mood to mess around. Centre Michel Marfaing scored three tries and prop Christian Califano helped himself to a brace in a nine-try 60-19 demolition job.

David Corkery and Killian Keane combined for the Munster total.

2000/01

Peter Clohessy on the charge

Munster qualified top of Pool 4 with five wins from five.

Bath were their closest rivals and needed Munster to slip up at Musgrave Park in round five against Sunday’s opponents Castres.

A ten-point win, with tries from Anthony Foley and Dominic Crotty, meant Bath were out of contention when they beat Newport three days later.

How they fared

Munster beat Biarritz at Thomond before losing the semi-final away to Stade, 16-15

2001/02

Jim Williams in action 

Munster had reached 10 points before their last game and already qualified,

However, their final-day 21-13 loss away to Castres meant they missed out on top spot in the pool.

An 86-minute try by Olivier Sarramea denied Munster and sent them on the road for the knock-out stages.

How they fared

Beat both Stade (16-14) and Castres (25-17) away before losing the final 15-9 to Leicester as plenty of hurt went into the locker. 

2002/03

Aside from their two European triumphs, this display in Thomond ranks as their most memorable moment.

The math was simple – beat Gloucester by four clear tries and 27 points – the execution sublime.

John Kelly was the man who got the last of those tries, deep in stoppage time, while Ronan O’Gara later claimed that he didn’t realise his conversion was needed.

He soon found out as the crowd invaded the pitch to celebrate a miraculous qualification with their heroes.

Munster finished second in Pool 2 and went through as one of the two best runners-up.

How they fared

Beat Leicester away 20-7, lost semi to Toulouse 13-12. 

2003/04

Ronan O'Gara kicks at goal

Munster were in pole position going into the final round of Pool 5, containing Gloucester, Bourgoin and Treviso, and knew a win over the French side would secure top spot.

That victory came courtesy of tries from Mike Mullins, Paul O’Connell and Peter Stringer, while O’Gara kicked three conversions.

How they fared

That placing was enough to secure a home quarter-final where they won a thrilling clash with Stade Francais 37-35 to qualify for their fifth semi-final in a row.

However, Wasps refused to lie down in Lansdowne Road and a late Trevor Leota try undid the Reds, 37-32.

2004/2005

Munster's Rob Henderson evades the challenge of Harlequins' Andy Dunne

Munster knew a win on the last day away to Harlequins would be good enough to top the pool but required a bonus point to be in the running for a home quarter-final.

They had the job half done when tries from Anthony Horgan and Denis Leamy gave them a 12-10 lead at the break. However, Quins refused to comply and an eventual 18-10 win meant they had to go on the road.

How they fared

As destinations go, San Sebastian – just up the road from Bilbao where this season’s final will be played – wasn’t that bad, but Biarritz found themselves enjoying the homes comforts of the Basque Country and claimed a 19-10 win.

2005/2006

Ian Dowling scores in the corner

Munster trailed Sale in the table with one round to go but it was the Sharks had to visit dangerous waters on the last day.

And Munster, being Munster, left it late to get the job done.

David Wallace scored the bonus-point try in stoppage time as the Reds leapfrogged Sale, who also qualified, to the top of Pool 1.

How they fared

Munster relocated to Lansdowne Road for the knock-out stages. Perpignan were conqured in the quarter-final before Leinster got brushed aside 30-6, 20 points from Ronan O’Gara doing the damage.

That, of course, set up the day of days when Anthony Foley led Munster to their Holy Grail. It was ‘glory, glory Munster’ as they beat Biarritz 23-19 in the Millennium Stadium.

2006/07

Denis Leamy gets tackled by Leo Cullen and Louis Deacon 

Munster again found themselves needing a win on the final day of regulation season to guarantee top spot in Pool 4 and a home quarter-final.

However, a Leicester Tigers side featuring Leo Cullen, Shane Jennings, Ian Humphreys and Geordan Murphy, claimed a 13-6 victory in appalling conditions at Thomond Park, at the same time becoming the first visitors to claim a Heineken Cup win at the ground.

How they fared

That result again sent Munster on their travels and the holders bowed out away to Llanelli Scarlets, 24-15.

2007/08

On their way

A better head-to-head record against Clermont meant Munster knew that a home win over Wasps would be enough to top Pool 5.

The visitors were still in the mix victory for the London side would have meant they finished top of the pile.

However, they could only manage a single penalty as Munster sealed the deal on a 19-3 scoreline.

How they fared

And the rest is history. Declan Kidney’s side beat Gloucester 16-3 at Kingsholm before another away win over Saracens in the Ricoh Arena, 18-16.

They returned to the Millennium Stadium to claim their second Heineken Cup title with a 16-13 win over Toulouse.

2009/10

Keith Earls gets tackled by James Downey and Shane Geraghty

Northampton Saints arrived at Thomond looking for a win that would have seen them leap-frog Munster at the summit of Pool 1 but four penalties from O’Gara saw the two-time winners over the line.

How they fared

As top and bottom seeds the sides faced off in the quarter-finals, Munster won again before losing to Biarritz 18-7 in the semi-final.

2012/13

Simon Zebo runs in for a bonus-point try

Once again Munster produced the goods on the final day as a Simon Zebo hat-trick helped them to a 29-6 win over Racing at Thomond.

That sent them into the knock-out stages as one of the best second-placed teams – an outcome confirmed by Leicester’s win later in the day against Toulouse.

The result simultaneously pushed Leinster down into the Amlin Cup, which they went on to win.

How they fared

Clermont proved too high a hurdle in Stade de la Mosson as Munster fell to a 16-10 loss.