Rugby's crowded houses
March 31, 2012
Harlequins attracted 82,000 fans to Twickenham in December 2011 © Getty Images
Saracens broke the world record for a regular season game at Wembley Stadium on Saturday with a crowd of 83,761 present to watch their clash with Aviva Premiership leaders Harlequins. With their superb effort in mind, we've pulled together some of the domestic game's other notable attendance records, from the Heineken Cup to Super Rugby.
82,208 - Leinster 25-6 Munster, Heineken Cup semi-final, Croke Park, Dublin, May 2, 2009
The world record crowd for a club game was drawn by the enticing prospect of seeing the blue and red quarters of Ireland go head-to-head for a place in the Heineken Cup final at the home of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), Croke Park. The GAA had opened the doors of the stadium to rugby in 2007 during the renovation of Lansdowne Road and duly hosted Ireland's 2009 Grand Slam as well as this classic performance from Leinster.
Gordon D'Arcy, Brian O'Driscoll and Luke Fitzgerald, all of whom would don red for the Lions later in the season, scored tries to exact revenge for defeat at the hands of their fierce rivals in the corresponding fixture in 2006 and lay the platform for a first title against Leicester at Murrayfield.
82,000 - Harlequins 11-19 Saracens, Aviva Premiership, Twickenham, London, December 27, 2011
Harlequins set the current world record for a regular season game with the most recent edition of the 'Big Game', their now annual Christmas switch to Twickenham. On this occasion, 82,000 fans turned out to see Conor O'Shea's table-topping youngsters up against the reigning champions, Saracens.
There was a sting in the tail for the hosts, who were taught a lesson in pressure rugby by the champions. David Strettle scored their only try of the match but it was Owen Farrell, who would delight the same stadium in England colours only weeks later, who proved the difference, winning the kicking battle against Harlequins' Nick Evans.
79,842 - Stade Francais 19-21 Clermont Auvergne, Top 14, Stade de France, Paris, April 4, 2009
Stade Francais have been a fixture at the Stade de France for some time, often providing huge spectacles to accompany domestic and European fixtures. Their crowning glory - attendance-wise - remains this tie with Clermont Auvergne. The crowd of 79,482 was once the world record for a regular league game, and remains the high water-mark in French rugby.
On the day, Clermont proved their class to narrowly defeat their hosts, who have not backed up their reputation on-field in recent seasons. Julien Malzieu and John Senio scored tries for the visitors to seal victory, with Mathieu Bastareaud responding for Stade, whose main weapon was kicker Lionel Beauxis.
76,569 - Stade Francais 10-15 Harlequins, Heineken Cup, Stade de France, Paris, December 6, 2008
The record attendance for a Heineken Cup Pool game remains this famous meeting in Paris back in 2009. Harlequins, still under the guidance of Dean Richards, upset the apple cart by defeating Stade 15-10 following one of the most outrageous pre-match displays in the history of the game.
Stade boss Max Guazzini spared no expense in bringing can-can girls and circus performers to the national stadium, but Harlequins provided fireworks of their own through Tom Williams and Jordan Turner-Hall. The high-point of a season later blighted by 'Bloodgate'.
54,000 - Sharks 19-20 Bulls, Super 14 final, May 19, 2007
King's Park's entry in the list of Super 14 finals was a big, big deal. The first all-African final and the first final hosted on African soil drew a bumper crowd and the game did not disappoint. Bulls speedster Bryan Habana cut his way through a tired Sharks defence for an injury-time try that set up the match-winning conversion, slotted by fly-half Derick Hougaard.
The Sharks, who played host to the final after topping the table during the regular season, dominated proceedings in the first half but were unable to build a commanding lead. They scored tries of their own through Albert van den Berg and JP Pietersen but fell agonisingly short at the death, the clock reading 82 minutes when Habana pounced.
50,645 - Leinster 13-9 Munster, Magners League, Lansdowne Road, Dublin, October 2, 2010
Leinster kicked the Joe Schmidt era into high gear with this narrow win over Munster at the new Lansdowne Road, breaking the attendance record for a Magners League (now Rabo Direct PRO12) game in the process. The province have made the ground a second home since its re-opening, also hosting a number of high-profile Heineken Cup ties there.
On this occasion a member of their old-guard produced the goods, with Brian O'Driscoll's 70th-minute try proving to be the difference in a keenly-contested game. Leinster went on to win a second Heineken Cup title later in the season, although it was Munster who went on to domestic glory, winning a repeat of this fixture to seal another league crown.
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