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Cardiff is just the ticket for Europe

28th November 2013

Today (Thursday, 28 November) marks the 18th anniversary of the first Heineken Cup match to be played in the Welsh capital when Cardiff RFC welcomed Ulster to the old Arms Park in what was Round 2 of the inaugural season of the fledging European club rugby tournament.

3,600 hardy souls turned out on a cold Tuesday evening in November 1995 for an early taste of what Europe had to offer and were rewarded with no less than six tries for the home side and a comfortable 46-6 victory by a Cardiff team captained by Hemi Taylor which featured the likes of Emyr Lewis, Jonathan Humphreys, Mike Hall, Nigel Walker and Adrian Davies.

When former Cardiff, Bath and Wales hooker, Jonathan Humphreys, heard it was the 18th anniversary of the first Heineken Cup fixture played in the Welsh capital, he couldn’t believe it. 

“Good God! I didn’t realise the tournament had been running that length of time,” said the current Scotland Forwards Coach. “When we heard there was going to be a European competition, we were all determined at Cardiff to fully embrace it and do our best to win it. I only thought it would last one season.

“We started off with a draw in France against Begles-Bordeaux and then faced Ulster in our first home game at the Arms Park. In those days, the Irish provinces weren’t as strong as they are today. We were expected to beat Ulster and we did so handsomely, scoring six tries if I remember rightly. We went on to beat Leinster at Lansdowne Road in the semi-final before coming home to Cardiff for that first final.”

Recalling Cardiff’s first and only appearance in a Heineken Cup final against a star-studded Toulouse, Humphreys said: “It was a huge occasion for all of us and it was a game that I felt should have ended in a draw rather than a last-gasp, extra-time win for Toulouse.  When referee Dave McHugh penalised Andrew Lewis in the final few minutes it was a harsh decision. Andrew was distraught in the dressing room afterwards.”

While more than 14 million supporters have attended Heineken Cup matches in 101 venues across 10 countries, 18 years on, the Welsh capital remains very much at the heart of European rugby.

Cardiff will host the Heineken Cup final for a record seventh occasion on 23/24 May 2014 as part of an ERC European club rugby finals weekend which will see the Amlin Challenge Cup decider played at the Arms Park on the Friday evening with the Heineken Cup showpiece staged at the Millennium Stadium the following day.  

Cardiff’s appeal as a European club rugby destination has endured throughout with over 290,000 fans attending Heineken Cup finals in the Welsh capital and more than 25,000 tickets already snapped up for the 2014 ERC finals weekend.

Tickets for the finals went on sale in September and have reported a surge in interest after the dramatic Round 1 and 2 weekends, and another more recent increase in demand as tickets are purchased as Christmas gifts for rugby lovers in Wales and beyond.

Looking forward to the return of the Heineken Cup final to Cardiff in May next year, Humphreys added: “There’s no doubt in my mind, the Heineken Cup has been responsible for raising the standards of rugby in the northern hemisphere. Sometimes there are teams in Europe that are stronger even than national sides and matches can be even tougher than tests. It’s great news that the final is back in Cardiff this season and I’m sure everyone hopes that the tournament continues to grow.”

More details and ticket information available on

It's 18 years since the first game! Now watch the latest! Cardiff Blues face Glasgow Warriors next Friday at the Arms Park. Call the Ticket Office on 02920 302030 or click HERE to buy online.

Match facts

Cardiff RFC 46-6  Ulster -  Cardiff Arms Park, 28 November 1995

Half time: 29-3

Attendance: 3,600

Referee: Gerard Borreani (France)


Cardiff RFC

15  Mike Rayer

14  Steve Ford

13  Mike Hall (1T)

12  Stephen John (1T)

11  Nigel Walker     

10  Adrian Davies  (1T, 5C, 2P)

9   Andy Moore (2T)

1   Andrew Lewis

2   Jonathan Humphreys

3   Lyndon Mustoe

4   John Wakeford

5    Derwyn Jones

6    Emyr Lewis

7    Owain Williams

8    Hemi Taylor (capt) 1T


Ulster Rugby

15   Jonny Bell           

14   James Topping 

13   Maurice Field    

12   Bill Harbinson (capt)       

11   Jan Cunningham

10   Mark McCall (2P)

9     Neil Doak            

1     Richard Mackey               

2     Allen Clarke

3     Gary Leslie

4     Jeremy Davidson            

5     Gary Longwell  

6     Stuart Duncan                  

7     Denis McBride  

8      David Erskine