May 25 down the years
Dylan Hartley sees red for calling referee 'cheat'
You aid what? Dylan Hartley is sent off during the Premiership final
© PA Photos
Dylan Hartley was red carded in the Aviva Premiership final after calling referee Wayne Barnes a "****ing cheat" minutes after a final warning for a similar comment. Perennial bad-boy Hartley protested his innocence but few outside his club's players and fans had much sympathy. The resulting 11-week ban cost him his place on the Lions tour and his dismissal scuppered any chance his side had of winning the match. Despite playing the second half with only 14 men, Northampton gave their all and only lost to Leicester 24-17.
A momentus day in South Africa as the third Rugby World Cup opened at Newlands where the home side, appearing in the tournament for the first time, upstaged the holders, Australia, with a 27-18 victory. On an emotional day, Nelson Mandela made a speech beforehand where he admitted: "Up until 1993 I used to hope South Africa lost because they represented the old, white order." Fly-half Joel Stransky was the star for the hosts notching a try, four penalties, a drop goal and a conversion in front of a capacity 55,000 crowd. Australian skipper Michael Lynagh said ruefully at the end: "It felt as if we were playing the whole of South Africa. We lost, but it was great to be part of a wonderful occasion."
Leicester became the first side to win back-to-back Heineken Cup finals with a 15-9 victory over Munster in front of 74,600 fans at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Tries from Geordan Murphy and Austin Healey propelled the Tigers to victory but the final is best remembered for a piece of foul play by Leicester flanker Neil Back. With his side trailing by six points, Munster scrum-half Peter Stringer prepared to feed a scrum in an excellent attacking position. But Back knocked the ball out of his hands and into the Leicester side in a game-changing act of skulduggery that was missed by all the officials. "On such small matters, games turn; finals are won and lost. It was not Back's finest moment," wrote Eddie Butler in the Observer.
The first ever SANZAR Super 12 Final saw Auckland defeat Natal 45-21 at Eden Park, Auckland. Tries from Andrew Blowers, Carlos Spencer, Charles Riechelmann, Eroni Clarke, Johnny Ngauamo and Jonah Lomu along with 15 points from the boot of Adrian Cashmore saw the New Zealand side sweep their South Africa rivals aside.
The cross-code challenge ended with honours shared. Bath, thrashed 82-6 under league rules earlier in the month, beat a Wigan side that included Jason Robinson, Joe Lydon (playing for the first time in 15 months), Andy Farrell and Henry Paul, 44-19 under Union laws at Twickenham. Maurice Lindsay, chief executive of the RFL, said afterwards there would only be one code within five years. "It will be difficult for them not to merge." Again the difference in fitness was evident in the final stages as Bath wilted. "We were struggling at the end," Bath's Mike Catt admitted.
Wales beat Ireland 13-6 in their first games at the inaugural World Cup in a match between the two pool favourites. Both qualified for the quarter-finals but the result meant Wales got the easier draw against England while Ireland had to face Australia in Sydney.
The British touring team left New Zealand on the Zealandia headed for Sydney and the Australian leg of their visit.
The first live television broadcast of a rugby union Test in Australia took place. All three Sydney channels transmitted the All Blacks' 25-11 win against the Wallabies at the SCG.
Don Clarke of New Zealand ran through the card of scoring actions to help the All Blacks to a 21-11 win over an England side playing a Test in the southern hemisphere for the first time.
In their first-ever playing visit to Tasmania, the All Blacks rattled up a 74-0 win in Hobart where flanker Graham Williams scored five tries.
Ian McGeechan was captain for the day as the Lions beat Poverty Bay/East Coast 25-6 at Gisborne. The skipper chipped in with two of the tourists' three tries and fellow Scot Dougie Morgan landed five successful goal kicks.