After 19 games, Leinster's winning streak has come to an end, but the unbeaten run goes to 20.
The crucial word there is 'unbeaten'. An exhilarating 22-22 draw with the Stormers came with the prize of a guaranteed top seed in the URC playoffs, secured with two games to spare.
Having been 17-0 behind against the champions, Leo Cullen would no doubt have taken this result after 35 minutes, but after barging their way into a 22-17 lead by the hour mark, this does feel like an opportunity missed to make a statement against their title rivals, particularly with Harry Byrne missing four kicks from five, including a potential match-winning penalty with three minutes to play.
The league leaders found themselves 17-0 down to the defending champions approaching half time, with tries from Suleiman Hartzenberg and Manie Libbok, as well as two conversions and a penalty from the latter had the visitors seemingly in control after 35 minutes.
Michael Milne's score just before the break got them back into the game, and by the 60th minute they were 22-17 ahead, Scott Penny, Rob Russell and Max Deegan all crossing, the last of which was converted by Byrne.
But the Stormers played some outstanding rugby in difficult conditions, and were fully deserving of a draw at the very least, making a comeback of their own when Clayton Blommetjies beat Dave Kearney to a bouncing ball to level the scores and salvage a draw, which keeps them on track for a second place finish, and a home draw in the playoffs.
Playing with a stiff wind behind their backs, the Stormers started brightest, stealing a lineout in the opening minutes, before enjoying a sustained period of possession.
Leinster conceded back to back penalties in their own 22, the first when Harry Byrne held onto the ball on the ground, and the second following a high tackle by Michael Milne.
The hosts defended well to stop the Stormers lineout maul following the first of those penalties, before Manie Libbok took a shot at the posts after Milne's infringement, sending the tourists into a 3-0 lead after seven minutes.
Conditions deteriorated soon after, with sheets of rain coming down, and combined with the strong wind, it left Leinster having to soak up a lot of pressure across the next 10 minutes.
They were getting on the wrong side of referee Sam Groves-White, conceding four penalties in the opening quarter of an hour, but Ross Molony relieved some of the pressure with an important lineout steal in their own 22.
The Stormers defied the conditions with some brilliant handling, and deservedly extended their lead on 20 minutes when Libbok scampered over for a try.
The out-half had earlier missed a drop-goal attempt but made up for it with some brilliant footwork to sidestep the challenges of both Liam Turner and Scott Penny to dive in for the try, before adding the conversion from under the posts to give his side a 10-0 lead.
Having been under the pump, Leinster finally settled into some sustained pressure, but couldn’t make it count against a Stormers defence that was flying off the line with phenomenal pace and power.
Twice they made it down to the Stormers 22, but each time they left empty handed; first Harry Byrne tried to pop a grubber that ran too far, before John McKee knocked on.
They were left to rue those missed chances on 33 minutes. Ciarán Frawley couldn’t hold onto a high pass and it fell straight to Libbok, the out-half picking off the loose ball to break clear and offload to Hartzenberg who finished under the posts, and it was 17-0 after Libbok tapped over the easiest of conversions.
Leinster pulled off a comeback for the ages against Ulster in December, and on that occasion, it was a try right before half time that got them on their way. They needed a response before the break here and they got it through Milne as the clock hit 40 minutes.
McKee had intercepted an overthrown lineout in the Stormers 22, before the visitors conceded back to back penalties, and from the second of those Leinster went to their usual five metre pick and go game, with Deegan’s clever pass to Milne sending the loosehead over to score. Byrne’s conversion drifted wide, but the hosts had given themselves a shot at a comeback, trimming the deficit to 17-5 at the break.
It took them just three minutes of the second half to make it a one-score game. After the Stormers were penalised for offside on halfway, Byrne found a brilliant touch with his kick, giving his side a five metre lineout, and when McKee’s throw found Moloney, they mauled down the blindiside, with Penny bursting through to touch down.
Once again, Byrne saw his conversion float wide, but with two tries on the board, Leo Cullen’s side had the Stormers in their sights at 17-10.
It was a chaotic and bizarre third quarter. On 51 minutes the Stormers almost came close to their second length of the pitch try when Steven Kitshoff picked off a lineout and popped to Hacjivah Dayimani, who sprinted 90 metres before being hauled down by an incredible Frawley tackle, Russell followng up to win a jackal penalty.
And just two minutes later Russell was in for a try, the score coming after Clayton Blommetjies was taken out by his teammate Senatla as they tried to recover a kick into their own 22.
Byrne was struggling with the wind off the tee, and missed his third conversion of the night, but the Ireland international’s kicking from hand was sublime. On 58 minutes he landed his second 50:22 of the night to put Leinster back on the offensive.
Hartzenberg hauled down the resulting maul which earned him 10 minutes in the sin-bin, before an inevitable fourth Leinster try followed as Max Deegan barged over to score on the hour mark.
This time, Byrne’s conversion split the posts. It had taken Leinster just over 25 minutes to turn a 17-0 deficit into a 22-17 lead.
It looked like the game was only going one way, but with 10 minutes left the Stormers drew level.
Having won a penalty to move into the Leinster 22, the hosts rattled away with a series of powerful carries, before Libbok's deft grubber to the corner was met by Blommetjies, who beat Kearney to the ball to touch down, Libbok's missed conversion leaving the scores tied at 22-22.
With three minutes remaining Byrne had a chance to win it when the Stormers were penalised on the edge of the 22, but his shot at goal, 15 metres in from the right touchline, rattled back off the post.
Leinster: Jordan Larmour; Rob Russell, Liam Turner, Ciarán Frawley, Dave Kearney; Harry Byrne, Luke McGrath; Michael Milne, John McKee, Michael Ala'alatoa; Ross Molony, Jason Jenkins; Rhys Ruddock (capt), Scott Penny, Max Deegan.
Replacements: Lee Barron, Ed Byrne, Vakhtang Abdaladze, Brian Deeny, Will Connors, Nick McCarthy, Charlie Tector, Ben Brownlee.
Stormers: Clayton Blommetjies; Suleiman Hartzenberg, Dan du Plessis, Damian Willemse, Seabelo Senatla; Manie Libbok, Paul de Wet; Steven Kitshoff (capt), Joseph Dweba, Frans Malherbe; Ruben van Heerden, Marvin Orie; Deon Fourie, Ben-Jason Dixon, Hacjivah Dayimani
Substitutes: JJ Kotze, Brok Harris, Neethling Fouche, Ernst van Rhyn, Willie Engelbrecht, Marcel Theunissen, Herschel Jantjies, Jean-Luc du Plessis
Referee: Sam Groves-White (SRU)