Heineken Cup final 2007
Wasps clinch Heineken Cup glory
May 20, 2007
Joe Worsley celebrates the final whistle and victory for Wasps
© Getty Images
London Wasps 25 - 9 Leicester Tigers
London Wasps won the 2007 Heineken Cup with a hard-fought 25-9 victory over treble-chasing Leicester Tigers in front of a record crowd at Twickenham.
Wasps were crowned European champions for the second time in four seasons as they destroyed arch-rivals Leicester's dream of a trophy treble at English rugby's HQ.
The Tigers, Guinness Premiership champions and EDF Energy Cup winners this term, finally met their match.
Just eight days after they blitzed Gloucester to land their first domestic title since 2002, Leicester were outgunned tactically and technically by a physically-imposing Wasps side.
And no player epitomised Wasps' mood of defiance more than 23-year-old prop Tom French, who delivered a scintillating display opposite revered Tigers and England tighthead Julian White.
French had spent much of the campaign on loan at National League One club Henley, which confirmed his quantum leap.
Wasps prevailed despite fly-half Alex King missing five kicks at goal, with Leicester offering no response in head coach Pat Howard's final game before he heads home to Australia this summer.
King landed four penalties and a drop-goal, but tries from scrum-half Eoin Reddan and hooker Raphael Ibanez - both as a result of brilliantly-worked line-out moves - left Leicester reeling.
Tigers fly-half Andy Goode kicked three first-half penalties, but Wasps secured a sparkling success through their mastery of the critical areas such as tackling and the breakdown, where centre Fraser Waters and flanker Tom Rees were magnificent.
Wasps reeled off a sixth successive Twickenham final victory - two Heineken Cups, three Premiership play-off finals and an Anglo-Welsh Cup success - and Leicester could only reflect on what might have been.
Tournament organisers European Rugby Cup Limited chose the occasion to announce that English and French clubs had lifted their boycott of next season's Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup competitions.
ERC chairman Jean-Pierre Lux declared an end to the protest 45 minutes before kick-off, although neither the Rugby Football Union nor Premier Rugby made an immediate reaction ahead of a planned meeting on Tuesday.
Lux said: "We would like to thank all of ERC's stakeholders who have been involved in the discussions, and I am delighted to be able to confirm the future of both tournaments on the day of the 12th Heineken Cup final.
"ERC stakeholders will meet shortly to finalise the agreement that will secure the long-term future of both tournaments.''
The news inevitably generated a feelgood factor around Twickenham, which boasted an 81,076 attendance, breaking the world record for a club game set when more than 79,000 watched Stade Francais play Toulouse in a French Championship game earlier this season.
It also eclipsed some surprising Wasps team news that saw French starting at loosehead, with England's World Cup skipper Phil Vickery reverting to loosehead and Peter Bracken dropping to the bench.
Leicester, meanwhile, made one change from the side that thumped Gloucester in last Saturday's Premiership final, recalling fit-again former All Blacks centre Daryl Gibson instead of Ollie Smith.
Wasps flew into the game immediately, with centre Josh Lewsey smashing Tigers scrum-half Frank Murphy through a bone-crunching tackle, then flanker Joe Worsley snaffled possession before King landed a fifth-minute penalty.
Considering Wasps had gone three weeks without a game, it was an impressive opening, although Goode's first penalty strike tied things up after seven minutes.
Wasps continued to dictate the pace, and they stung Leicester through a sucker-punch try that found Tigers' defence wanting.
Ibanez assessed his options at a short-range line-out, and he threw straight to Reddan, who sprinted 20 metres and claimed the score with Leicester still wondering what had happened.
King missed the conversion - he failed with penalty attempts either side of Reddan's try - which allowed Leicester a considerable reprieve, despite Goode slotting his second penalty.
England captains past and present - Vickery and Corry - underlined the game's explosive nature when they squared up, but Wasps' superior organisation was confirmed through Paul Sackey stopping Tigers man-mountain Alesana Tuilagi in his tracks.
Tuilagi destroyed Gloucester a week ago, yet Wasps' supreme man-marking job evoked memories of the way South Africa halted Jonah Lomu during the 1995 World Cup final.
Wasps had the scent, hunting like hounds, and they posted a second try six minutes before half-time as Leicester's defensive line-out was again exploited.
This time, Ibanez was the beneficiary, throwing to lock Simon Shaw, who fired a pass straight back to the Frenchman and he galloped over unopposed.
King's kicking frailties saw him miss a fourth successive shot at goal, a weakness confirmed as Goode completed a penalty hat-trick on the stroke of half-time, which kept Leicester in touch at 13-9 adrift.
Leicester needed a purposeful start to the second period, but they were undone by Tuilagi conceding two penalties in eight minutes that King slotted, representing something of a personal triumph following his first-half failings.
The second period rapidly became a war of attrition, but King's drop-goal gave Wasps breathing space, and Leicester could find no way back, finding themselves hanging on at the end after a blistering James Haskell break.
Haskell, who replaced Lawrence Dallaglio after 50 minutes, rampaged 70 metres into Leicester's 22, and his enterprise resulted in a penalty.
King slotted the three-pointer, and Leicester could only reflect where it all went wrong as a jubilant Dallaglio lifted the trophy, giving Wasps rugby director Ian McGeechan his first European crown.
Leicester (9) 9
Wasps (13) 25
Leicester: G. Murphy, Rabeni, Hipkiss, Gibson, A. Tuilagi, Goode, F. Murphy, Ayerza, Chuter, White, L. Deacon, Kay, Moody, M. Jennings, Corry.
Replacements: Buckland, Moreno, Cullen, B. Deacon, Humphreys, Vesty, Smith.
Wasps: Cipriani, Sackey, Waters, Lewsey, Voyce, King, Reddan, Vickery, Ibanez, Bracken, Shaw, Palmer, Worsley, Rees, Dallaglio.
Replacements: Ward, French, Leo, Haskell, McMillan, Waldouck, van Gisbergen.
Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)
"Wayne Barnes' decision to give Dylan Hartley his marching orders was brave but crucially it was the correct call." Graham Jenkins reports from the Premiership final
"We wanted to get the rugby spirit across to people, I firmly believe we have been in the thick of it." Tom Hamilton speaks to the ESPN crew on the final live broadcast
With the Lions' tour to Australia fast-approaching, ESPN's Austin Healey and Mark Durden-Smith sat down to share their memories of the 2001 trip Down Under
"The fans could not be happier with the opposition and it adds an exciting element to a game that is shaping up as a thriller." Ben Kay previews the Premiership final showdown