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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
Howley and the French howler
By Matt Majendie

Wasps start their defence of the Heineken Cup this weekend still barely able to believe the bizarre manner in which they clinched the trophy last May.

Wasps scrum-half Rob Howley, who scored the winning try against Toulouse in last year's final, told BBC Sport he was at a loss to explain the occasion even five months on.

Rob Howley slips past Clement Poitrenaud to score the winning try in the Heineken Cup final
The Premiership side headed into the closing minutes of the game looking sure to miss out on European rugby's top prize, before a moment of utter madness by Toulouse full-back Clement Poitrenaud.

The French side had drawn the scores level at 20-20 and were piling on the pressure in an attempt to produce the telling blow.

Howley found himself stranded on his line, opted to hoof the ball upfield, only for it to travel almost in a perfectly straight line to Poitrenaud deep in Toulouse's defence.

The French full-back dithered hideously. He opted not to put it into touch and instead waited for it to trickle over the line and to touch it down. It bobbled dangerously and Howley pounced.

The former Wales scrum-half recalled: "I felt I'd made a bad decision by kicking the ball upfield, with me and Tom Voyce to blame for messing around for too long near our line.

"And I can honestly say I've never seen a rugby ball bounce in a straight line like that before. It just hugged the white line and I thought I'd follow it.

"Shaun Edwards [one of Wasps coaches] always tells us you should never chase a lost cause. I thought 'sod it'. And the last bounce gave me the opportunity."

Howley's bewilderment as he got up from the try line was less a sense of disbelief and more a monumental doubt over whether he had got downward pressure on the ball.

I just cringe. What the hell was he doing?
Rob Howley's on Clement Poitrenaud's howler

The decision went to the video referee and the rest is history.

"I really didn't have a clue whether it would be allowed," he said. "But referees were just on our side in that competition. We'd got lucky against Munster and got lucky again this time.

"I can watch it a hundred times and still my reaction's the same," he said. "I just cringe. What the hell was he doing? I guess he was avoiding giving away an attacking line-out to us late on. But how that plan backfired.

"I couldn't even bring myself to commiserate with him after the game. It was just too awful. What can you say? I'd never wish that on anyone at any time in their rugby career.

"Only Clement Poitrenaud knows what was going on in that head of his."

The try looks set to be played over and over again ahead of the tournament's start at the weekend.

Wasps open up their defence against French side Biarritz at home on Sunday, although a long-standing wrist injury means Howley looks set to miss much of his team's title defence.

"We need to continue asking questions as a side and we think we'll be a tough side to beat as a result of asking those questions," he said.

"That was probably the greatest day at club level of my life. We'd played some great rugby, although Toulouse were the better side on the day. Fortunately they didn't take their opportunities, which we did.

"I only hope to have a day like that in the not too distant future."




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