May 19 down the years
Leinster ...king of Europe
Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll and Brad Thorn celebrate victory on this day in 2012 © PA Photos
Leinster were hailed as the greatest European club side of all time following their 42-14 victory over Ulster in their Heineken Cup final showdown at Twickenham. Tries from Sean O'Brien, Cian Healy, Heinke van der Merwe and Sean Cronin - and a crucial penalty try - propelled Joe Schmidt's side to their third European title in the space of just four years.
An agreement was reached among the three major southern hemisphere Unions (SANZAR) to launch the annual Tri-Nations International Championship and Super 12, to start in 1996. The tournament was launched with heavy investment from broadcast partner News Ltd, with Rian Olberholzer serving as SANZAR's first CEO. In 1996 New Zealand completed a clean-sweep of the Tri-Nations, while their dominance was confirmed with the Auckland Blues being crowned as the first Champions of the newly-formed Super 12. The Kiwi side saw off the challenge of Natal Sharks 45-21 in the inaugural final.
Two coloured players - Ighraam and Marwaan Moerat - withdrew from a South African Rugby Federation XV to play England after their club, Paarl, threatened t ban them for two years if they played. Paarl opposed the apartheid regime and claimed England's tour gave support to the government. Other players were openly threatened with losing their jobs and violence.
Leicester defeated Stade Francais 34-30 in Paris to win the Heineken European Cup at Parc des Princes in Paris. The Tigers completed a treble although Stade Francais gave them a huge scare through the boot of Diego Dominguez, who scored all their points with a record nine penalties and a drop goal, although the French they were outscored by three tries to nil. Skipper Martin Johnson nearly killed his side's chances however, his punches on Christophe Juillet seeing him leniently sent to the sin bin when he could well have seen red.
Few mourned the departure from Bath of Federico Mendez whose contract was terminated early after he failed to make the grade. He left claiming he was a victim of a conspiracy - "they wanted to make me upset and leave" - and said coach Andy Robinson who he claimed "was not good enough". Robinson replied:
"Fred wasn't commanding a first-team place. With those comments, it's obvious he hasn't been happy."
A crowd of 95,000 (reported L'Equipe) watched France escape from the August 23rd Stadium in Bucharest with a narrow 18-15 Test victory over Romania. In a Sunday match refereed by Watford's Les Boundy, Romania led 9-6 at half-time.
Wallaby Jim Lenehan inspired New South Wales to an unexpected yet well-merited 12-11 victory over a star-studded New Zealand touring side in Sydney.
Wales opened their short tour of South Africa with a comfortable 17-6 win against Boland at Wellington. "It was rugby with brakes off today, proving that Wales are already masters' of the new laws," reported the Daily Mirror. "Rainer Jones, new chairman of the International Board, described it as 'a grand show'. Welsh centre Ken Jones idol of South Africa after the 1962 tour, showed all his old brilliance. John Dawes dropped a great goal in the 15th minute and another highlight came when Alan Pask broke through for a wonder try."
Barry McGann kicked Ireland to a 12-3 win against Sid Going's North Auckland side in Whangarei. The Irish fly-half landed a drop goal, a penalty and converted a try by skipper Tom Grace.