The Heineken Cup or European Champions Cup is the highest honour that a European club side can win, with the 2016-17 competition being one of the most highly anticipated campaigns.
Who won the Heineken Cup 2017? Saracens of England won the 2017 Heineken Cup Final, defeating Clermont 28-17 to win their second title in a row.
Coming into the 2016-17 season, many expected Saracens to repeat with Racing and Leinster also pushing for the final. In the pool stages, this is pretty much how it started. Saracens were the only undefeated team after the group stages, having been pushed closest by the Scarlets away from home.
In the other pool stages, it was Clermont who took the top seed heading into the knockout rounds, thanks to six bonus points, with two of those collected in their 39-32 loss to Ulster. It gave them a great chance of getting to the finals as they faced eight seeded Toulon, who had finished second in Saracens group.
Elsewhere in the groups, Wasps, Leinster and Munster won their groups with Toulouse and Glasgow claiming the remaining quarter final places. Glasgow’s success came at the expense of last year’s finalists Racing 92, who finished bottom of Pool 1 with only one win which was a 34-3 rout of Leicester.
It still was far from enough and Racing missed out on the quarter finals, just a year after reaching the final. The quarter finals were set and it brought some intriguing matchups, but none of the games turned into close contests. All four of the quarter finals were decided by 15 points or more, with the home team winning every time.
It showed just how important home advantage really is. The most disappointed side of all would have to be Toulon. Two years on from winning the competition, they were looking to repeat that feat, starting with a win against Clermont in the semi-finals, who they had beaten in the final of the competition two years ago.
Toulon still had a lot of that star studded line-up that had brought them success, with Bryan Habana, Mathieu Bastareaud, Ma’ Nonu and future world cup winner Duane Vermuelen. Despite the score being 6-6 at half time, Clermont raced away in the second half with Noa Nakaitaci’s try on the hour mark turning out to be a crucial score.
The semi finals featured Munster at home against Saracens, with Clermont hosting Leister. Semi-final weekend started off at the Aviva Stadium, with Muenster up against reigning champions Saracens. The home side used their crowd to put in continuous attacks in the first half but went into halftime 6-3 down.
It was in the second half when Saracens showed why they are the reigning champions of Europe. After Saracens continued to pile the pressure on, Mako Vunipola drove over to take their lead to two scores, with a Chris Wyles try taking their lead out to 23 as the clock turned red.
Despite a late CJ Stander try, Munster were dumped out of the competition as Saracens prevailed in an ugly game that was dominated by endless kicking. Munster were really missing their leader Conor Murray and Saracens took advantage of the chaos created in his absence.
Thankfully, the second semi final was much more exciting. It did not look like it would be an exciting encounter in the first half, as Clermont scored two tries in the first 15 minutes through Peceli Yato and former England and Saracens winger David Strettle. With a Sexton penalty just before half time, the score was 15-3 going into half time.
But it was through the boot of Sexton that Leinster began to build back into the game. The Irish fly half slotted three penalties after half time to take the score to 15-12. It was at this point that Leinster thought they had taken the lead when Dan Leavy crossed over the line.
The try went to the TMO where it was ruled out by referee Nigel Owens, due to Leavy holding back Aurelien Rougerie at the ruck in the run-up to scoring. Morgan Parra slotted another penalty as well as a drop goal to take the lead to nine points. Leinster had to chase the game and they did.
Gary Ringrose finally scored Leinster’s first try of the game, with Sexton’s conversion taking the game to just two points. But the experienced Camille Lopez nailed a penalty as well as a 76th minute drop goal to take the game away from Leinster, sending Clermont to their third Champions Cup final in the last five years.
With an incredible final set, Chris Ashton was just metres from scoring less than a minute in before a phenomenal tackle from countryman Nick Abendanon. But Ashton crossed the line in the twelfth minute thanks to a pinpoint Alex Goode kick. A line break from Goode set up George Kruis to score under the posts as Saracens took a 12-0 lead.
Before the break, Remi Lamerat’s converted try helped close the gap. An Owen Farrell penalty extended the lead to eight but an absolutely spectacular team try, finished off by Abendanon, closed the gap to just one point ten minutes into the second half. Saracens piled on the pressure with Billy Vunipola tackled just short of the try line.
The pressure finally worked as Goode crossed over the line, before a penalty from Farrell secured the 28-17 victory. It gave Saracens their second European title , becoming the third team to win back to back European Champions Cup titles, behind Leinster and Toulon.
With Billy Vunipola named man of the match for his incredible ball carrying, Owen Farrell won European Player of the Year despite Saracens losing in the Premiership semi final the week after the final. It was a third final loss for Clermont who were incredibly disappointed after being outplayed over 80 minutes by a brilliant Saracens team. The French side were able to ease the pain of that final loss, when they beat Toulon in the Top 14 final a few weeks later.