Ahead of Saturday’s final between Leinster and Racing 92 in Bilbao, Sky Sports Rugby selects some of the memorable moments from past European Cup finals that have come to define the competition. Read through our top ten moments and then vote for your favourite.
Leinster vs Racing 92
May 12, 2018, 4:00pm
Get Sky Sports Get a Sky Sports pass
1997 – Sébastien Viars (Brive 28-9 Leicester Tigers)
Brive full-back Sébastien Viars hit Leicester with a spectacular try after only five minutes as the French side raced into an early lead at Cardiff Arms Park.
The move started after Brive collected a restart deep in their own half and open-side Grzegorz Kacala scattered the Tigers’ defence with a rampaging run.
Brive then put width on the ball allowing Viars to streak down the touchline, handing off the tackles of Austin Healey and John Liley to cross in the corner for an air-punching effort.
1998 – Bath (Bath 19-18 Brive)
The first triumph by an English team in the competition arrived in a titanic collision at Stade Lescure and is sometimes referred to as the Battle of Bordeaux.
An estimated TV audience of over 35m in 70 countries highlighted the tournament’s wide appeal, and Bath sealed victory in injury time with a Jon Callard penalty. Remarkably, it was the first time they led all afternoon.
1999 – Simon Mason (Ulster 21-6 Colomiers)
The joke among Ulster supporters before this final was that not even a force-10 gale and driving rain could put off the seemingly nerveless Simon Mason.
The Ulster full-back had enjoyed an exceptional tournament from the kicking tee and Lansdowne Road bore witness to another display of excellence, as Mason hit French challengers Colomiers for six penalties from six attempts to make a fairy-tale ending.
2002 – Neil Back (Leicester Tigers 15-9 Munster)
Forget Austin Healey’s try to put Leicester ahead, the 2002 final will always belong to Tigers’ flanker Neil Back, who tapped the ball from Peter Stringer’s hands just as the Munster No 9 was getting set to feed a scrum.
WATCH: Highlights of the 2001/02 Heineken Cup final between Leicester and Munster
The Irish province had, and with no little effort, managed to forge a potential game-winning position underneath Leicester’s posts. But it was Back’s game management that stole the day.
2004 – Rob Howley and Clement Poitrenaud (Wasps 27-20 Toulouse)
As the clock ticked towards 80 minutes at Twickenham, Wasps and Toulouse were tied at 20-20. Then Wales scrum-half Rob Howley picked up a loose drop-out close to the sideline and prodded a grubber kick in behind the Toulouse defence.
WATCH: Rob Howley famously pick-pocketed Clément Poitrenaud
He could not, however, have anticipated the casual mop-up job attempted by Clement Poitrenaud.
The Toulouse full-back allowed the ball to bobble into the try area, expecting to dot down for another drop out. But then Howley surprised everyone to pounce and seize the ball from Poitrenaud’s grasp and win the competition for Wasps.
2006 Peter Stringer (Munster 23-19 Biarritz)
Munster and Biarritz were tied at 10-10 when the Reds scrummed down close to the French corner in Cardiff. Munster had – by then – suffered final defeats to Northampton and Leicester and were chasing down their first competition win.
The Biarritz defence underestimated the diminutive scrum-half, stringer, instead choosing to focus on Munster’s proven finishers.
Stringer exploited the opportunity from the back of a five-metre scrum to steal in and score one of the competition’s iconic tries.
2009 – Johnny Sexton (Leinster 19-16 Leicester Tigers)
In a year when Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton delivered one of the moments of the season with a dead-time drop goal to beat France in Paris in the Six Nations, it’s only fitting to include his dropped effort from Murrayfield in the 2009 final.
With just three points the difference at the end, Sexton’s quick thinking had a massive bearing on the destination of the trophy.
2011 – Johnny Sexton (Leinster 33-22 Northampton Saints)
Saints had looked on course to win Europe’s top prize for the second time after storming into a 22-6 half-time lead in an astonishing first half of rugby in Cardiff.
WATCH: Leinster's incredible comeback against Northampton in the 2011 Heineken Cup final
But a storied half-time speech that has become a thing of legend around Dublin’s leafier postcodes preceded a sterling two-try reply from the Leinster fly-half at the beginning of the second-half.
Sexton finished the game with 28 points as Northampton crumbled under the weight of Leinster’s momentum.
2014 Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon 23-6 Saracens)
Jonny Wilkinson marked his last game on British soil by leading Toulon to back-to-back European Cups.
The 2003 World Cup-winning hero kicked 13 points in what was his penultimate game before retirement, hitting a trademark drop goal, two penalties and two conversions. Matt Giteau and Juan Smith stole the tries, but Wilkinson stole the headlines.
WATCH: Jonny Wilkinson bowed out of professional rugby by lifting the European trophy for Toulon
2017 – Nick Abendanon (Saracens 28-17 Clermont)
It was a try worthy of winning any rugby final and while the scorer was an Englishman, Nick Abendanon finished a length-of-the-field move for a Clermont side that ran into an inspired performance from Saracens.
The final’s most memorable try arrived in the third quarter and was a score of spectacular ambition, but on the day Saracens had that bit more firepower.