May 20 down the years
Munster climb their Everest

Munster beat Biarritz 23-19 in front of 74,534 - most of them Irish - at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium to win their first Heineken Cup title after losing out to Northampton and Leicester in the 2000 and 2001 finals. Tries from South African centre Trevor Halstead and Irish scrum-half Peter Stringer secured victory, with Sereli Bobo scoring an early try for Biarritz and scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili proving metronomic with the boot. "It's hard to say what Munster's secret is. It's something that comes from where we live. It's a special place to be," said Stringer. "You meet your friends in the street and you see how much games like this mean to them. It's hard to put your finger on what gives us success like this."

A record Heineken Cup final crowd of 81,076 turned out at Twickenham to see the first all-English final. Wasps beat Leicester 25-9 thanks to tries by Eoin Reddan and Raphael Ibanez and 15 points from Alex King. Wasps were crowned European champions for the second time in four seasons as they destroyed arch-rivals Leicester's dream of a trophy treble. Wasps won despite fly-half Alex King missing five kicks at goal, with Leicester offering no response in head coach Pat Howard's final game in charge. King landed four penalties and a drop-goal, but tries from scrum-half Eoin Reddan and hooker Raphael Ibanez - both as a result of brilliantly-worked line-out moves - left Leicester reeling.

Harlequins lifted the Amlin Challenge Cup courtesy of a dramatic and highly controversial 19-18 victory over Stade Francais in Cardiff. The Quins were trailing by six points with four minutes remaining when Gonzalo Camacho crossed for the game's only try. Nick Evans then held his nerve remarkably well to edge Quins ahead. The game ended in acrimony as Stade coach Michael Cheika took exception to the fact that his side had been ordered to use the ball by referee George Clancy as they attempted to get a push on in a scrum in injury time at the end of the game.

Karl Mullen's Lions tasted defeat in New Zealand for the first time, beaten 23-9 by Otago at Carisbrook. A feature of the home side's win was the new forward tactic of "rucking" to recycle ball at the breakdown.

New Zealanders Graham Henry and Gordon Hunter, it was announced, were on the short-list to take over as coach to the Welsh national side. Henry got the job and after leading Wales to 11 consecutive wins, and earning himself the nickname of "the Great Redeemer", he became the first foreign coach to supervise a Lions tour in 2001. Henry left his post with Wales in 2002 after seeing them slip to a record 54-10 defeat.

Harlequins secured their first European title, defeating Narbonne 42-33 after extra time to win the European Shield - rugby's version of the UEFA Cup. Narbonne coach PierreArrambide was a model of graciousness in defeat. "I was shocked at the cheating that went on, not from the Narbonne team," he whined. "There was nothing I could criticise my players for. We can hold our head up high."

A judge at Croydon in south London jailed 40-year-old Chris Gingell for six months for punching an opponent in a 'friendly' match so hard that it left him with broken jaw, cheekbone and nose. Although the judge said "violence in sporting events has got out of hand", the victim said he was "amazed" at the severity of the punishment, adding: "These things happen in rugby." Gingell's wife defended her husband, claiming "it was only one punch" and explaining: "I am surprised at the injuries because Chris has weak wrists after an accident some years ago when he broke them in a fall down a lift shaft."

World Cup organisers announced at the draw for the 2003 tournament in Australia that the first country to win the title three times would be entitled to permanent possession of the trophy. To date, Australia, new Zealand and South Africa have each won twice.


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