Leinster join the European elite
Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll celebrates his side's Heineken Cup Final victory over Leicester at Murrayfield
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Leinster were crowned European champions for the first time following a hard-fought 19-16 victory over Leicester in their Heineken Cup Final showdown at Murrayfield. The Irish province rallied from a first-half deficit with an assured display to end the Tigers' hopes of a record-equalling third Heineken Cup triumph and a notable domestic and European double. A try from No.8 Jamie Heaslip, an assured performance from 23-year-old fly-half Jonny Sexton and a rampaging display from man of the match Rocky Elsom were the bedrock of a battling victory that saw Leinster write their names alongside Irish rivals Ulster and Munster on the Heineken Cup roll of honour.
Wasps were crowned kings of Europe. Lawrence Dallaglio led his men to a stirring 27-20 win against Toulouse before a crowd of 73,057 at Twickenham. In the deciding passage of the game, with the sides locked at 20-20 and heading for extra time, Toulouse fullback Clement Poitrenaud waited at the corner-flag with the scores level as a kick rolled down the left hand touchline. While he hesitated Wasps scrum-half Rob Howley dived to touch down as the ball crossed the line, and a remarkable match was won and lost.
England and Lions flanker Richard Hill was born. Hill played 288 times for Saracens and 71 times for England making him one of the modern greats of the English game. He also played five Tests for the British and Irish Lions between 1997 and 2005. Hill was part of the much-vaunted England loose trio of Back, Dallaglio and Hill that took England to Rugby World Cup glory in 2003 under Clive Woodward. He was the only member of Woodward's England side never to have been dropped by him. He played primarily as a blindside flank with the emergence of Neil back despite open side being his preferred position - one which he fulfiilled at club level for Saracens. He retired from the game in 2008 after a knee serious knee injury finally put paid to his playing career after he'd manfully played through the pain barrier to prolong his career as much as possible.
In the first Test between the nations on South African soil, the Springboks inflicted the biggest defeat suffered by Wales in a Test for forty years as the Five Nations joint champions are trounced 24-3. Doug Hopwood, Hannes Marais and scrum-half Nelie Smith all crossed for tries for the Springboks with fly-half Keith Oxlee landing three conversions and two penalties.
"Boxer" Harding's Anglo-Welsh team - the Scottish and Irish Unions had declined to support the visit - opened their New Zealand tour with a 17-3 win against Wairarapa-Bush at Masterton.
The Lions were beaten for the second match running during their tour of New Zealand. The mid-week side lost 11-0 against Southland, four days before the Test series begun.
Ronnie Dawson's Lions opened their tour of Australia and New Zealand with a 53-18 victory against Victoria at the Olympic Ground in Melbourne.