Paul O'Connell shows his class
With Munster underdogs against Harlequins, Paul O'Connell's return from a back operation in the weeks running up to the Heineken Cup quarter-final could not have been timelier. The Ireland international produced an eye-catching performance in a win against Connacht on his full return (just two weeks ago) - but it proved a mere appetiser. The 33-year-old second row put in a match-winning display as he helped Munster secure an 18-12 victory over the reigning Aviva Premiership champions. It prompted Quins director of rugby Conor O'Shea to hail O'Connell as one of the greatest second rows of all-time while it was a timely reminder to the on-watching British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland of O'Connell's fitness and qualities ahead of this summer's tour.
O'Gara overcomes jitters to find form
Ronan O'Gara endured a miserable Six Nations campaign with a torrid cameo against England and Scotland, leading to calls for the veteran fly-half to retire - from the international scene at least. The 36-year-old's poor form had also extended to club level, with a particularly dour display against Scarlets. However Ireland's most-capped international was back to his best against Quins. Despite a shaky start which saw O'Gara miss a couple of early penalties, he soon found his range and dispatched six penalties to help Munster reach the last four. The out-half will need to be at his best when Munster take on Clermont Auvergne in the semi-finals as the two-time champions look to win another Heineken Cup crown.
Young guns step forward
While O'Connell and O'Gara were the headline acts for Munster, it was their younger team-mates who really proved their mettle against the English champions. Rob Penny's side have been criticised for a lack of consistency this season, but Munster's XV produced a determined performance to upset the odds. In particular, Tommy O'Donnell starred in the back row alongside Peter O'Mahony as Munster refused to give Harelquins any breathing space. Munster hooker Mike Sherry said of O'Donnell after the win: "Before the game Tommy O'Donnell spoke and it was brilliant to see someone like that who is not very vocal speaking up and getting passionate, and that got people going before the game".