Rugby Union: Top 5 all-time Heineken Cup finals

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It’s England v France in the last ever Heineken Cup final as reigning champions Toulon take on Saracens in Cardiff and if one thing’s for certain, you can expect plenty of drama at the Millennium Stadium.

Toulon, who defeated French rivals Clermont in a dramatic final in Dublin last year, are the 4/6 favourites with Ladbrokes to defend their crown, while Saracens are 5/4 to become the fifth English club to win the competition.

From the very first whistle of the first Heineken Cup there has never been a shortage of  excitement and with the curtain coming down on the tournament Ladbrokes News delves into the archives and looks back at some of the best ever finals from Europe’s premier rugby competition.

Cardiff RFC 18-21 Toulouse, Cardiff Arms Park – 1996

The Heineken Cup goes full circle when Saracens take on Toulon in Cardiff for the last ever final but way back in 1996 Welsh hearts were broken in the very first decider at Cardiff Arms Park.

Nothing separated Cardiff and Toulouse after 80 minutes of rugby following Adrian Davies’ 83rd minute penalty forced the teams to play another 30 minutes to crown the winner.

But after the sides traded penalties in extra-time it was the Cardiff number 10’s opposite number who had the last laugh as Christophe Deylaud sealed an inaugural Heineken Cup for the French side with three points in the final seconds of the match.

Bath 19-18 Brive, Stade du Parc Lescure – 1998

Bath broke the French stranglehold on the Heineken Cup with a real backs-to-the-wall effort against the then reigning champions Brive.

The French side built a commanding seven point lead early in the second-half and Bath were reeling as wave after wave of Brive attacks closed in on the tryline.

But the Bath defence held firm and it took a Jon Callard penalty 80 seconds into injury time to give England a first Heineken Cup success.

Stade Francais 30-34 Leicester Tigers, Park Des Princes – 2001

Leicester became the third English club to lift the trophy as yet another Heineken Cup final went right down to the wire.

The Tigers were on song in Paris as they outscored their French opponents by three tries to nil but 30 points from the boot of Italian Test fly-half Diego Dominguez kept Stade in front.

In the end it took an 80th minute try from centre Leon Lloyd to send the Leicester fans wild and break the hearts of the French side.

London Wasps 27-20 Toulouse, Twickenham – 2004

Former Wales scrum-half Rob Howley stole the show in what was a gripping Heineken Cup final at HQ between Wasps and Toulouse.

The London club were well on their way to glory but Jean-Baptiste Élissalde’s penalties drew the French side level and with just minutes to go the scores were locked at 20-20.

Step forward Mr. Howley. With the clock running down the Welshman put in one last grubber kick down the touchline and with Toulouse full-back Clement Poitrenaud seemingly having it covered the game looked destined for extra-time.

But the kick was perfect and with its final roll the ball crossed the try line for Howley, who was following up his kick, to pounce on and seal the Heineken Cup for Wasps.

Clermont Auvergne 15-16 Toulon, Aviva Stadium – 2013 

Toulon sealed their first Heineken Cup victory with a dramatic 15-16 victory over French rivals Clermont in Dublin.

The atmosphere inside the Aviva Stadium was electric as Englishmen Jonny Wilkinson and Delon Armitage inspired Toulon to overturn a nine point deficit in the second-half.

Despite Toulon, who meet Saracens in this year’s final, taking the lead for the first time with just 14 minutes left on the clock, there was still time for some late drama as David Skrela saw his last chance to win the cup for Clermont in the final seconds denied as Bernard Laporte’s side held firm and charged down the French fly-half’s drop-goal attempt.

What is your favourite Heineken Cup final of all-time? Tweet @Oliver Yew with your views!

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