Looking back on previous Heineken Cup Finals, the 2004 meeting between Wasps and Toulouse will forever be remembered for this moment of sheer brilliance by Rob Howley, but perhaps more significantly, the blunder by Clement Pointrenaud that ultimately divided the two best sides in Europe.
The game was heading for extra time as it came to a cliff hanging climax with the scores tied at 20 points all. Toulouse had taken a rather poor 22 drop-out and Howley was penned in close to the touchline, with little obvious room for manoeuvre.
Shrugging off his chronic wrist problem, he fielded the restart, swiveled and grubbered a teasing kick along the touchline. The kick was aimed more in hope than expectation as it bounced and bounced. Toulouse full-back Clement Poitrenaud waited and waited, clearly hoping it would end up harmlessly in touch. That final half-second of delay will trouble his sleep for many years to come.
By the time he reached to get half a hand on the ball Howley was swooping, snatching the ball from out of his grasp to touch down for what looked like a stunning try. The delirium around a packed Twickenham was put on hold for only a minute while the video referee deliberated, before giving the go ahead to award the try.
Toulouse were stunned, as well they should have been. Had their full-back not fatally dawdled in dealing with Howley’s rolling kick, Toulouse might well have become the first side to win this tournament three times. Instead the ball stayed in play, Howley pounced and the rest is history.
“I wasn’t sure whether he’d got a hand to it or whether I’d got downward pressure,” admitted Howley. The TMO was in no doubt though.
Toulouse will be hoping this type of lack of concentration doesn’t come back to haunt them when they take on Munster in Cardiff in this years Heineken Cup Final. I doubt it will, as this was a bizarre moment that will surely give Clement Poitrenaud nightmares till the day he dies.
Wasps 27 Toulouse 20
We’ve updated this to show the slightly longer version. Enjoy.