Cardiff RFC 18-21 Toulouse
Toulouse snatch first cup in Cardiff's back yard
Tristan Barclay
January 7, 1996
Toulouse winger Emile Ntamack lifts the trophy following the first Heineken Cup final, Cardiff v Toulouse, Heineken Cup final, Cardiff Arms Park, January 7 1996.
Emile Ntamack lifts the inaugural Heineken Cup
© Getty Images
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Date: January 7, 1996
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff
Cardiff RFC 18-21 Toulouse
Half-time: 6-12
Tries: Toulouse: Castaignede, Cazalbou

Con: Toulouse: Deylaud
Pens: Cardiff: A Davies 6, Toulouse Deylaud 2
DG: Toulouse: Castaignede

Two extra-time penalties from fly-half Christophe Deylaud ensured the first Heineken Cup belonged to Toulouse, who defeated Cardiff on Welsh soil in front of 21,800 at the National Stadium.

Toulouse started at a breath-taking pace, scoring two tries and 12 points in the first ten minutes. The sniping accuracy of the Toulouse backline in those opening exchanges shook the 'home' side, who were forced to play catch-up throughout the nail-biting final.

It was a fresh-faced Thomas Castaignede who crossed first. Exploiting room created by an early line-out drive, Toulouse produced a wonderful passing move which almost put full-back Stephane Ougier over the line. He was held up - just - but the danger was far from over for Cardiff as Deylaud span the ball out to Castaignede, who dived low to score by the left touchline.

Castaignede also had a hand in Toulouse's second try. Working off a solid scrum, the French side threw a string of extravagant passes to set the centre galloping half the length of the pitch. Tackled five metres out, he offloaded to scrum-half Jerome Cazalbou, who went over to score in the same spot as the first.

Cardiff rallied after the setback of those early tries, turning the tables on Toulouse through a dominant pack. But despite having the upper hand up front for much of the second half, the Cardiff backs lacked any killer instinct and it was only thanks to the boot of fly-half Adrian Davies that they inched back into the contest.

 
Not even the magic of Jonathan Davies, brought on at half-time, could conjure a Cardiff try. The sorcerer's magic, dulled after almost eight years in rugby league, was missing some genuine pace
 

The appearance of another Davies after the half-time break did little to improve Cardiff's fortunes. As the Daily Express' Tony Bodley reported at the time: "Not even the magic of Jonathan Davies, brought on at half-time for Mark Ring, could conjure a Cardiff try. The sorcerer's magic, dulled after almost eight years in rugby league, [was] missing some genuine pace.

"He went for one outside break - his old trademark - two minutes from the end of normal time. It might have been a storybook finish but he was easily shepherded into touch."

But despite their lack of cutting edge, Cardiff were somehow able to draw level. They even had two chances to win late on when they forced two five yard scrums within two minutes, but the Toulouse defence held firm and Cardiff could count themselves lucky to force the match into extra time.

Both teams tired in the additional 30 minutes and it was left to the kickers to decide the cup's destiny. Cardiff came agonisingly close to glory through an [Adrian] Davies penalty, but it was to be Toulouse's day as Deylaud kicked two to finish what Castaignede had started nearly two hours earlier.

The first Heineken Cup was far from a truly pan-European competition. English and Scottish clubs were barred from entering by their respective unions, with the RFU threatening to set up its own competition. A £1 million payout from the sponsors eventually drew in the English clubs for 1996-7, but the precedent was set: money talks in European rugby.

Fast-forward to 2015 and money is again the centre of attention. After years of wrangling, we know the Heineken Cup morphed into the European Rugby Champions Cup (ERCC), which splits proceeds more equally between the teams involved.

Emile Ntamack, Toulouse captain in 1996, hailed the victory as a the most important in his career. He said: "This is my most important victory. It makes certain that the European Cup is here to stay and it will be even better next year when England and Scotland are involved."

Toulouse try-scorer Jerome Cazalbou hands-off against Cardiff's Derwyn Jones on a dank January afternoon in the inaugural Heineken Cup final © Getty Images
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