|The Heineken Cup so far...
|Toulouse became the first club to win the coveted Heineken Cup three times when they beat Stade Français Paris 18-12 in an all-French final at Murrayfield.|
The 10th anniversary season of European club rugby’s premier tournament turned into a triumph for coach Guy Noves – who has guided Toulouse to that unique treble in 1996, 2003 and 2005 – and captain Fabien Pelous.
The tense final in Edinburgh on 22 May, 2005, failed to produce a try even though extra time was needed to separate the great rivals with Toulouse centre Yannick Jauzion taking the man of the match award in front of a crowd of 51,326.
A year earlier London Wasps had become the seventh club to win the silverware when they beat defending champions Toulouse 27-20 in a Twickenham thriller that was widely hailed as the best of the nine finals in the history of the tournament.
With extra time looming at 20-20, an 11th hour opportunist try by scrum half Rob Howley settled the cut-and-thrust contest that had enthralled the 73,057-strong crowd on 23 May, 2004. It was rugby of the highest quality heavily laced with real drama.
Wasps had earned their first final appearance by beating Munster 37-32 in a Dublin semi-final – and another match that seemed to have everything – while Toulouse triumphed 19-11 in the all-French contest with Biarritz Olympique in a packed Chaban Delmas, Bordeaux.
Wasps’ victory denied Toulouse the honour of being the first club to win the Heineken Cup crown three times – albeit only delaying that honour for another 12 months – the French giants having become only the second team to win the title twice when they added the 2003 title to their 1996 crown.
Leicester Tigers had created European club rugby history a year earlier when they made the first successful defence of the Heineken Cup title.
Toulouse joined them as double winners on 24th May, 2003, when they won the first final to be contested by teams from the same country by beating Perpignan 22-17 in the first strictly French affair at Lansdowne Road, Dublin.
Toulouse now top Europe’s premier club rugby tournament roll of honour ahead of the Tigers and other previous champions Brive, Bath, Ulster, Northampton Saints and London Wasps.
The tournament is now embarking on its 11th season after it all began in the unlikely surrounds of the Romanian Black Sea resort of Constanta back on 31st October, 1995.
In just 10 years since then it has taken Euro rugby by storm, catching the imagination of players and supporters like a forest fire. Attendances for last season totaled a record 920,239 – a massive 103,872 more than the old mark set a year earlier – while it is also the vital higher stepping stone between domestic tournaments and the international stage.
The tournament was launched in the summer of 1995 on the initiative of the then Five Nations Committee – now the Six – in order to provide a new level of professional cross border competition.
THE HEINEKEN CUP FINALS
||Toulouse 21 (AET)
||Cardiff Arms Park
||Cardiff Arms Park
||Northampton Saints 9
||Leicester Tigers 34
||Stade Français Paris 30
||Parc des Princes
||Leicester Tigers 15
||London Wasps 27
||Toulouse 18 (AET)
||Stade Français Paris 12
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