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Munster claim second Heineken Cup

Sunday 27th April 2008

12:00 am (GMT)

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- 27/04/2008 19:10

- 27/04/2008 19:10

It seems fitting that Cardiff will provide the backdrop to a Heineken Cup final contested between two sides that have come to represent everything that is good about European rugby.

On May 24, 2008 the capital of Wales will host its fifth Heineken Cup final, more than any other city. And a full Millennium Stadium will welcome Toulouse, the only side to lift the trophy three times, and Munster, the number one ranked side in Europe over the past four seasons and winners of the Heineken Cup in that same venue in 2006.

The thirteenth Heineken Cup final promises to be lucky for all as the two big hitters eye each other in a city that just loves the big occasion.

It is a clash of styles, of rugby cultures, and was the final the neutrals longed for after it became a possibility after the semi-final draw was made in the wake of the Pool stage.

Toulouse, who epitomise French elegance, a side so capable that winning seems easier that defeat, a side who effortlessly brush away the biggest of challenges, a side who may finally have met their match ? the irresistible force that is Munster.

Munster not only look the part, they are the part. A squad of unrelenting power and guile, filled with experience, heavy with wise old heads and fleet footed pace. Munster have been there, seen it, and have the battle scars to prove it.

Check out ercrugby.com’s Cardiff 2008 Heineken Cup final weekend guide.

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Munster claim second Heineken Cup

Sunday 27th April 2008

12:00 am (GMT)

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- 27/04/2008 19:10

- 27/04/2008 19:10

Munster won their second Heineken Cup title in three seasons with a nail-biting 16-13 triumph over Toulouse.

Denis Leamy’s first half try was supported by 11 points from the ice-cool Ronan O’Gara as head coach Declan Kidney was handed the perfect send-off.

Kidney masterminded another European crown but he now leaves Munster to take on the Ireland job.

Yves Donguy gave Toulouse a lifeline with his second half score but O’Gara clinched victory with his third penalty with 15 minutes remaining.

Toulouse went in search of their fourth Heineken Cup title while Munster returned to the scene of their 2006 triumph.

Munster are the only side to have reached the knock-out stages in the past decade.

The final pumped £20 million into Cardiff and a large proportion of that income came from the Irishmen who invaded the Welsh capital.

The Red Army from Cork and Limerick came in their thousands to say a fond farewell to head coach Declan Kidney who takes up the Ireland job.

Munster had tasted both joy and despair at the Millennium Stadium on their previous two visits.

Declan Kidney’s men snatched victory for their first Heineken Cup title against Biarritz but also suffered heartbreak to Leicester Tigers in 2002.

And Kidney’s last stand came against the Real Madrid of rugby and legendary Toulouse coach Guy Noves.

Noves was present when the French outfit won their first title in Cardiff back in 1996 but this time he was without joint leading try scorer Vincent Clerc through injury.

Captains Febian Pelous and Paul O’Connell led their sides into a cauldron of noise at the Millennium Stadium.

Toulouse had the first opportunity to open the scoring but Jean-Baptiste Elissalde pulled his fourth minute penalty attempt wide.

But Elissalde cooly slotted home two minutes later to hand Toulouse the lead.

French centre Yannick Jauzion beat Munster full-back Denis Hurley to the high ball and Elissalde made no mistake from close-range.

It was one-way traffic from Toulouse who continued to pile on the pressure in the opening quarter.

But Munster remained just three points adrift thanks to their committed defence.

And in the Irishmen’s first attack on the half hour mark, Hurley was stopped just shy of the try-line following Doug Howlett‘s mazy run.

Munster were gathering momentum and number eight Denis Leamy was denied by video referee Derek Bevan after he dropped the ball with the line at his mercy.

But after a series of close-range drives, Leamy powered over for the first try of a compelling encounter.

O’Gara extended the lead with the conversion and then a penalty to nudge Munster seven points clear.

And Kidney’s men were handed a boost when Pelous was yellow-carded for kneeing Alan Quinlan in the backside in the 50th minute.

O’Gara kicked another penalty but Toulouse hit back when a moment of genius from Cedric Heymans brought the three-times champions back in the contest.

Yves Donguy added the finishing touch after Heymans’ delightful chip and chase released Jauzion who beat O’Gara to the chase.

Elissalde converted to tie the scores before O‘Gara booted his third penalty to put Munster back in front with 15 minutes remaining.

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