Champions Cup: When two English clubs made the semis

Champions Cup: When two English clubs made the semis

When Northampton Saints followed Harlequins into the Investec Champions Cup semi-finals last weekend, it was only the sixth time there have been two English clubs in the last four of EPCR ‘s elite competition.

Although English clubs have won 10 of the 28 editions of the tournament thus far, it is perhaps a surprise that there had been two or more in the semi-finals only five times previously. 

The first occasion was in 2001, when Leicester Tigers and Gloucester Rugby played each other for a shot at taking on Stade Français Paris in the final. Leon Lloyd’s early try proved the difference at Vicarage Road in a rugged match which Tigers won 19-15. 

It was not the only time Lloyd had a decisive act in that season’s tournament. In the final it was his try in the final minute which clinched Leicester Tigers’ first EPCR triumph after a thrilling 34-30 win. 

Six years later, Northampton Saints were then, as now, one of the English clubs in the last four, but they were up against the great Wasps team of the noughties who, after falling 13-0 behind, racked up 22 unanswered second-half points to clinch a place in the final with a 30-13 win. Wasps made no such mistakes in the final, beating Leicester Tigers 25-9 at Twickenham to clinch their second title. 

One year later, in something of a purple patch for English clubs, there were again two English semi-finalists. Neither were successful, however, with London Irish going down 21-15 to a clinical Stade Toulousain side and Saracens falling 18-16 to eventual champions Munster Rugby. 

It took another eight years for England to get more than one semi-finalist again, but again it was three. Saracens downed Wasps 24-17, but Leicester Tigers were unable to create an all-English match-up in the final, losing 19-16 to Racing 92. Saracens went on to win the final 21-9, the first of their three titles. 

Finally, the 2020 semi-finals contained two English clubs. Racing 92 were able to avenge earlier wrongs with a belligerent 19-15 win over Saracens, while Exeter Chiefs marked another milestone on their way to an amazing season with a clinical 28-18 win over Stade Toulousain. A month later, the Chiefs beat Racing 31-27 in a thrilling final in Bristol. 

Only once when England have had two clubs in the semi-finals has one of them failed to win the tournament. Time to rewrite the record books? 

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