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Saturday, 25 May, 2002, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Should Munster feel cheated?
Leicester's Neil Back defends his late intervention which helped his side to Heineken Cup glory over Munster.
The Tigers became the first team ever to retain Europe's premier trophy with a 15-9 win over Munster in Cardiff.
But it was Neil Back's apparent infringement in the scrum in the dying moments which grabbed the headlines.
Back knocked the ball out of Munster scrum-half Peter Stringer's hand at the put-in, but the infringement went unnoticed by the referee.
Should Munster feel cheated? Or did Leicester simply do what they had to do?
This debate is now closed. A selection of your e-mails appear below.
The referee had a poor game and wasn't properly in control - witness the unpunished stamp on Austin Healey's leg.
In these circumstances teams need to create their own luck and bend the rules. Games of this importance should have two referees on the field, not just one.
Over the 80 minutes I would agree that Leicester deserved to win. But the only memory I will take away is Back's cheating, denying Munster a proper scrum and the possibility of scoring a try.
Leicester was the better team; they played within the boundaries the referee set them. Had Neil Back been playing for Munster, Cardiff, Northampton or any other team it would not be an issue. Leicester is the most professional team and their ethos makes them winners. They never make excuses when they lose, perhaps the other European teams would like to try and give them more practice.
As far as I'm concerned the Tigers will forever be known as the Cheetahs
Neil Back's response to the justified reaction to his crime shows that he is morally bankrupt and unrepentant. The fact that other players step outside the rules is no excuse, he will forever be tarnished by his actions on Saturday
Over 80 minutes of rugby at this level, things even themselves out - what goes around comes around. "Professional fouls" from both teams rose their ugly heads throughout the match, all the way from illegal scrummaging to lying on the wrong side or even just slowing down opponents' ball. Consequently, to focus solely on Neil Back's indiscretion would be unfair on both him and the two sides who put on a great display.
Agreed, one must not condone such acts of rule breaking. However, there is a certain amount of credence in the "do what you must to win" ethos that the Tigers demonstrate so effectively.
If Munster had deserved to win the contest, then all the criticism of Back would be justified, but they were clearly outplayed by the Tigers and deserved to finish as runners-up...just not in this way!
Neil Back's tap is no different than centres being offside all game. If the referee doesn't call it you cannot blame the players.
Back is only guilty of perpetuating his crime in clear view of the cameras on the last play of the biggest game of the season. Had he done it in the first 5 minutes it would have been forgotten already.
I don't think he should be too heavily pilloried. He didn't injure anyone, but he has disappointed many people and the amount of comment this has provoked is evidence itself of bringing disrepute to the game.
All the penalties in the match were for cheating! Do you crucify the player that commits the last one? Interesting Celt/Angle split in the opinion again!
Munster showed great dignity in accepting their defeat on Saturday, especially in the circumstances. As a Northampton fan who was there at their last defeat two years ago I was hoping that their time had come to lift the cup - sadly not.
At least Back had the decency to admit what he did and didn't claim "Hand of God". He is also correct that it is no different to a host of other deliberate offences during that and any other game. They are all cheating, and all equally unacceptable.
This happens at every level in the game. The fact that the Munster scrum half was caught out by this move is the only shocker.
Week in week out, footballers blatantly dive trying to get free kicks from the referee or possibly a yellow/red card for their opponents. Week in week out cricketers appeal for lbw decisions where the ball wouldn't have hit a second set of stumps or for catches at the wicket, knowing full well the batsman has not touched the ball.
Professional sports players will try to get away with as much as they can if the officials are not fully paying attention. Saturday afternoon just happened to be Neil Back's turn.
Sorry Neil, I'm afraid that 'cheating' is precisely the word that describes your conscious action. It was a cheap moment which did you no credit. It cannot be right to defend yourself by suggesting that it is part of the game. How do you want to be remembered?
David Jeannette, Wales
Back should get a three match ban from European rugby for his cynicism both on and off the pitch. His behaviour is completely contrary to the spirit of any game.
Had he been caught by the referee, assuming that Munster had won by beneficiating from a penalty, then Back would have been seriously blamed for this. He knew that when acting. It turned out in his favour, give the guy some credit. I'm not saying cheating is great, but as a rugby player I know that you may act like this when you feel it can help, that's only natural.
On balance, Leicester deserved to win but the important point is the timing of the incident and the place on the pitch it happened. This makes it more than "just another penalty".
It is tantamount to cheating and I am sure that Munster have reacted with far more dignity than Leicester would have. Austin Healey wouldn't have stopped talking for a year!
I wish all those who have said Back's actions were "shameful" and he should be disciplined would get real. Yes, his actions breached the rules, but it is gamesmanship, which by its very nature is stretching the limits of the game.
If you get away with it, you consider yourself lucky, if you get caught, then you were unlucky. What will be people's reactions if Beckham takes a dive in the World Cup final giving England a penalty to win tournament. No one will complain!
Cheating is cheating: being on the winning side does not somehow make it respectable. Would you trust the people who claim it is alright with your wallet?
I thought rugby was a game played by gentlemen? It does no matter who had most of the ball - if you can only win by cheating, don't bother playing.
Well done to Leicester for the deserved win and also to Neil Back for doing his job. Had Bath been in the same situation I'd expect our open-side to do exactly the same. Peter Stringer is an international scrum-half so he must be aware that these things go on and play his game accordingly.
Is Back the real issue? Leicester played most of the rugby of Saturday while Munster opted to play the kicking game (without a line-out functioning!). Who's really destroying the game of rugby? The same happened with Llanelli in the semi-finals and Stade Francais in last year's final. All of these sides opted to kick their way to victory and not play rugby.
If Munster had opted to play rugby from the start instead of the last 10 minutes, maybe there would have been no Back issue to discuss.
At the end of the day you go out on to the pitch to win. Back did what needed to be done to win the game. Leicester wanted it more. Both teams put in a hell of a lot, which made it fantastic to watch, but there can be only one winner. Neil is a very intelligent player and has earned them a great victory.
If you win by blatant cheating, you can hardly expect others to respect you.
As one Munster official said "If it had been one of our boys we would have made him Lord Mayor." There are certain actions in rugby that are unacceptable and some which are deemed to be 'smart'. The Back incident was one of the latter as seen by all the players' reactions. The issue should not be about Back but the terrible refereeing throughout the whole game.
What a fantastic day out. The stadium is magnificent and the atmosphere with the roof closed was amazing. Great result for the Tigers, who probably just edged the game with two tries and some fantastic defending. As for Neil Back's last minute intervention, although it was illegal, had he been sin binned then it was no guarantee that Munster would score from the resulting penalty.
However, as a Tigers fan my day was made complete by the many congratulations from Munster supporters after the game. The many drinks we had afterwards confirm that the Irish certainly know how to party even after losing. Munster fans, you were a great credit to the Emerald Isle. Here's to meeting you in the final next year.
Are rugby supporters turning into football fans, whinging at refereeing decisions and being sore losers? Saturday was a great spectacle, the atmosphere in the stadium was superb and both sets of fans were fantastic before and after the match. It's a great shame people are vilifying Back, one of the greatest flankers in the world. Those who understand rugby such as Matt Dawson and Jonathan Davies have said Back did what any other professional rugby player would have done - so all you self-proclaimed experts get over it. This years Heineken Cup was a credit to Northern Hemisphere rugby. Bring on a world club cup!
It would seem that cheating is now the order of the day in Rugby. As long as you get away with it then it's okay, it's just 'gamesmanship'. A pity that a great team like Leicester should have their victory irrevocably tainted in this way.
Neil Back is right up there with Maradona now, a cheat. But, as a Munsterman, I'm not going to moan too much. He got away with it. The only thing that really annoyed me was Dean Richards' pathetic attempt to justify Back's actions. Too many blows to the head have clouded your judgement Dean! Having said all that, I think Leicester just about deserved to win.
Neil Back should be disciplined for a disgraceful act! Ok so maybe overall Leicester deserved to win, but not like that, I just hope that there weren't any young players watching who feel it is justified to cheat to ensure a win - not a good example from a leading player! Criticism should be made to those of the Commentary team who endorsed and congratulated his actions - Shameful!
Since when did rugby become a game of sticking completely to the rules! Wake up or choose another sport! I suggest it's not Backy that's getting people worked up, it's the fact that the Man U of rugby won again!
All the people who talk about what Neil Back did as disgraceful must have missed Stringer stamping on Austin Healey's shin in the first half. The ref missed that as well, just like the kick that went into touch. It obviously suits some people to concentrate on one decision and assume a try would then have been scored and converted. Would still have left a 2:1 try count, so who was playing the rugby?
Some might regard Neil Back's intervention as gamesmanship, I regard it as cheating. What sort of example is this for a senior England Player to set? Neil Back should be called to an RFU hearing for bringing the game into disrepute; the video evidence is clear in showing his guilt! This was an unsporting end to a good game. How he could give a cold stone-faced interview at the end saying that they deserved the win is beyond me!
A disgrace! Leicester take no glory from this game. Back is a cheat; nobody on his team has the moral fibre to admit it. Stringer and his Munster team-mates come away with honour and dignity for choosing to overlook a piece of play from the gutter. Shame on Leicester.
I would like to congratulate Leicester on what I believe was a deserved victory. They had twice as much possession as Munster, and their defence was awesome.
Their only problem seemed to be Garforth at tight head; failing to bind properly is something a professional should know not to do. As for the Back incident, it's not cheating if you don't get caught, and it was very streetwise of Back to do that.
Yes I am a Tigers fan and have been for 20 years. I was at Cardiff on Saturday and thought we deserved the win. Munster never threatened until the 82nd minute. Neil Back a cheat? I suggest people watch the video and look at what some of the Munster players got up to.
I can understand those supporting Munster feeling robbed. How would you feel if you were leading 15-9 and your No7 did the same? I have seen Tigers lose games to such things.
OK, Neil Back committed a penalty offence; name one other rugby player who hasn't? Lying on the ball, holding on to the ball on the floor, hands in the ruck, pulling down in the lineout, driving in at the scrum - It all goes on in every game and any rugby fan knows it.
So all the sanctimonious pulling of hair is slightly off putting. Rugby has always had an element of "the dark side" - it's what we watch it for! Name a coach who wouldn't put Back in his side! Well done to both teams.
No matter what Neil Back did the Tigers deserved to win without a shadow of a doubt! They had more possession, a better defence, better tactical kicking and played more attacking rugby; hence 2 tries to nil.
What Neil Back did was wrong every one knows that but he wasn't the only player on the pitch who cheated! What he did was magnified by what a crucial stage in the game it was. It was exactly the same as hands in the ruck which no-one makes half a fuss about.
The refereeing was terrible from the word go, but it was Leicester who adapted to him quicker and better. The Tigers stranglehold, of course, can be loosened but it will take a hell of a team to do it, with the young Tigers like Harry Ellis coming through and shining!
I am a Munster man and am shocked by some of the comments here. I was at the game with a Leicester supporter who was too upset by the Back incident to enjoy the win.
The win is tainted. It need not have been but it was. Such a pity that Back didn't have the moral courage to say it was wrong. British sense of fair play died 25th May 2002. It was the worst piece of cheating I have seen since Maradona in 1986. No one in England has forgotten that, no one in Munster will forget this!
Rugby union is becoming a totally farcical sport. We have blatant cheating in the Heineken Cup which is passed off by players and coach Dean Richards as 'wanting to win' The earlier morally repugnant shenanigans which denied Rotherham their rightful place in the premiership leaves a sour taste. Professionalism shouldn't mean 'win by cheating' or 'moving goalposts to protect the moneymen'.
Leicester deserved to win with or without Neil Back's "intervention". Two tries to nil speaks for itself. Munster couldn't break down Leicester's superior defence throughout the game, so I doubt they would have done even if they had won that scrum.
The Tigers dominated possession and are worthy winners, the best team in the Northern Hemisphere. As for the incident involving Neil Back, it's harsh to single out this incident, as foul play was evident throughout the game.
As a Munster man can we stop pointing the finger at Back! What he did is no worse than killing the ball on the ground which is part and parcel of the game.
That Munster lost was due to three reasons: a bad lineout (something they knew about for a long time and still no improvement), a lack of 'professionalism' (Crotty should have taken out Murphy in the run up to the first Leicester try) and probably the worse refereeing performance I have seen for a long time.
Well done to Leicester but they are far from unbeatable.
Two Tigers tried disallowed, Tuilagi's should have been, didn't see too much wrong with Johnno's. Munster fans were fantastic, a great credit to Ireland. Tigers' players have had a long old season, how many top line games do the Canterbury guys play in a season? By the way Pat Howard was superb when he was at Leicester, off now to polish another trophy.
Scott Montgomery is completely correct by saying it was a waste of an hour and half. I know both teams can play better, but if this was an example of the best the Northern Hemisphere has to offer then I think we can say goodbye to any team from here (other than France maybe) winning the World Cup next year.
We all know that players try and gain the upper hand and push the laws to the limits, but I really believe what Neil Back did was totally dishonest. Dean Richards is correct in saying that players "cheat" all the time, but that's why we have a referee and two touch judges. The correct course of action should have been a penalty and a sin-binning.
If Munster had won by three points or fewer the referee and touch judge would have been castigated for their ludicrous decision to award a lineout in the Leicester half when it should have been way back in the Munster half. They should now be hauled over the coals for missing this.
I was at the game, and experienced the tension, and, like many spectators, was oblivious the to the Neil Back "hand of God" incident.
Don't let's get too carried away with this. Of course you can't use your hand in this situation, but then it's against the rules to deliberately knock on, etc. In other words the game has rules and if you break them you get penalised. Back broke the rules and didn't get punished, but then such things happen. Like many players he will have been aggrieved about being punished for things he didn't do. If every incident of breaking the rules is cheating, then fine, but don't call lying on the ball a penalty and handling the ball in the scrum cheating, that's being very selective.
As for Leicester's dominance they should know how lucky they were to be in the final, and frankly won because of a great defence rather than having a sparkling game. Of course their dominance can be broken, these things go in cycles.
And the quality? Yes a game against Canterbury would be very interesting, and Leicester could well take a hammering. But who said Leicester were the best in the world anyway?
As a Munster fan, I am of course disappointed by the result. But in fairness the better team won. Saying that, I still don't condone what Neil Back did in the final scrum. It is disgraceful that a player of his undoubted quality should have to resort to a trick like the one he pulled.
Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank Peter Clohessy and Mick Galwey for their years of dedication to Irish and Munster rugby.
You lot just got sour grapes. Our boys have probably played more rugby this season than anyone else. The game was full of 'Back-like' incidents. The game was poor-but that reflects both sides attitude to the game, not just Leicester's. We deserved to win it on tries alone. The game was always going to be tight-so it wasn't exactly going to be a spectacle to admire. In the end the better team one.
I was again disappointed by the commentary on this the pinnacle of the Rugby season. In 30 years of watching Rugby on the BBC I have never heard a bad word against any player; it is only since Messrs Moore, Butler and Davies have taken over that a biased opinion has crept in. Bring back Bill McLaren. Please!
Neil Back has lost all respect in my eyes for his action. If you can't win fairly, you're not worthy winners.
Dean Richards should be ashamed of his man, and Clive Woodward should think very carefully about ever selecting Back to represent England again.
If that's how sport is played we may as well not keep score. Back's actions were a disgrace! Is that what is needed to win?
Up until that moment Leicester were deserved winners, but that incident ruined the game and sport in general.
The Neil Back incident only shows how important the match was to the Tigers. OK, it was wrong, but there were also many decisions in the match that went against Leicester.
Blatant penalty or not, Munster should never have been in the position to win it. Only poor refereeing meant Munster were in the game at all. Rugby is all about tries and the Tigers scored two and deserved to win.
I would like to congratulate Munster on a great performance and another great season, where they forced the best side in England to cheat in order to guarantee victory. I hope Neil Back is a proud man after collecting his winners' medal. Surely one of the most disgraceful things ever to have happened on a rugby field.
It will be difficult to tame the Tigers if they continue using unsporting tactics such as the actions of Neil Back in the final scrum of the game. Perhaps it is time for the game to have a video linesman who can tell the referee by radio of any infringements caught by the TV cameras.
Leicester are the best side in Europe, as proved by results. Some people become bitter and resentful of success, which is exactly what has happened with Manchester Utd within football.
Maradona must be wishing he played rugby! All of a sudden cheating is gamesmanship. There is no sportsmanship left on or off the pitch!
Ronan O'Flynn, Ireland
They would be easily beaten by any of the top teams in the Super 12. They should try playing the Crusaders!
What a poor game of rugby. Very little attacking running and pointless tactical kicking by Munster. Leicester probably deserved to win in the end as they had about twice as much of the ball as Munster.
The tigers can be tamed, but not until other European teams up their game because Leicester are continuing to set the standard. Neil Back's indiscretion was lucky not to have been spotted, but the referee was hardly consistent and everything balanced out in the end. A good win for the Tigers.
I have just finished watching the European Cup final between Munster and Leicester and am absolutely disgusted. It is a very poor reflection on English rugby. While Leicester had proved themselves the better side on the day, they showed a distressing lack or sportsmanship. Leicester may have won the cup, but Munster have come away with dignity.
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