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European milestone looms for Wasps

The next London Wasps game on home soil at Adams Park against French outfit Bayonne will see the club play its 100th competitive match in Europe in both ERC tournaments.

Wasps are only the third English Club to reach the milestone, with Leicester and Bath having also passed the century mark.

On their way to 100, Wasps have faced 34 different opponents and played at 39 different venues through 78 games in the Heineken Cup, and 21 in the Amlin Challenge Cup.

Wasps began life on the European front in the 1996/97 Heineken Cup with a home game against Cardiff at Loftus Road. Wasps, then featuring the likes of Buster White, Lawrence Dallaglio and Will Green, lost to a side that included current Director of Rugby, Dai Young.

Though Wasps didn’t qualify for the knockout stages in that first year, their debut season in Europe did include a remarkable 77-17 victory over Toulouse, a points tally that remains the highest the club has ever scored in a single Heineken Cup game.

After reaching the Heineken Cup quarter-finals in 1997/98 and 1999/200, Wasps had to wait until 2002/03 for their promise in Europe to blossom under the guidance of Warren Gatland. Victory over Bath in the final of the Amlin Challenge Cup brought the club its first continental title following home and away wins over Stade Francais in the two-legged quarter-final which proved a defining moment in that victorious campaign.

Better was to come a year later, when the Club lifted the Heineken Cup. An outstanding highlight of that title-winning season in Europe was an unforgettable semi-final win over Munster at Lansdowne Road. Dallaglio’s men came from 10 points behind to score two injury time tries and reach their first Heineken Cup decider with a 37-32 victory. Many seasoned observers still rate this as the greatest game in the competition’s history.

Wasps went on to beat Toulouse in a thrilling final. They led for most of the game, before a late Toulouse penalty levelled the score at 20-20. With extra-time looming large, Rob Howley sent a kick down the left touchline. Toulouse full back Clement Poitrenaud dithered as the ball rolled over the try line, and the Welsh scrum-half dived to snatch it from under his nose and claim one of the most sensational tries Twickenham has ever seen.

It was to be the 2006/07 season when Wasps would lift the title again after qualifying for the knock-out stages by topping their pool. The quarter-final against Leinster drew a full house to Adams Park, with Wasps winning it 35–13. In the semi-final - on Sunday 22 April 22 at the Ricoh Arena -Wasps beat Northampton 30–13 and in doing so, gained a place in the Heineken Cup final against Leicester Tigers at Twickenham in a game which set a then world record club attendance of 81,076. It remains the only all-English final in the competition’s 17-year history.

Leicester were the favourites, as they had already won the Anglo-Welsh Cup and the English Premiership, but Wasps went ahead early on, and led 13-9 at the break, after scoring two tries from lineouts. In the second half, Wasps’ defence was on top form and Leicester could not add to their score. Wasps finally won 25–9, thanks to four penalties and a drop goal by Alex King and tries by Raphael Ibanez and Eoin Reddan to become 2007 champions.

In 2009/10, changes were made to the structure of the Amlin Challenge Cup, which raised the quality and the profile of the tournament. Only the pool winners were to qualify for the quarterfinals, where they were joined by three Heineken Cup qualifiers.

That season, Wasps won their pool and made it all the way to the semi-finals, where they lost to the eventual winners, Cardiff Blues. This season’s Amlin Challenge Cup campaign has started encouragingly, and the Men in Black and Gold will be looking to go one better. Director of Rugby Dai Young knows what it feels like to lift this trophy, as he was Cardiff’s coach when they were crowned champions.

To celebrate the milestone there are 100 tickets up for grabs in our special European Competition. See here
for more details

To make sure you have a place when London Wasps play Bayonne in their 100th European game on Thursday, December 15, Adams Park. 19.45KO, secure your place by calling 0844 225 2990 or book online here.