The new ERC European Ranking system was used for the first time this season, with the 20 teams graded into four Tiers of five teams with each of the five Pools having one team from each of the four Tier levels.
Teams from the same country were kept apart, with the exception of the sixth and seventh ranked French sides and the sixth ranked English club.
There was a welcome return to European action for Northampton Saints and Toulon, both of who had battled back into the top tiers of their respective domestic leagues after dropping out of the top flight. They appeared in the same Pool, but it was the Saints who went marching through as they wept all before them to end with a perfect six from six, along with London Irish and Saracens.
The 2008 runners-up, Worcester Warriors, once again won their Pool to make it clean sweep of the home draws in the quarter-finals for the English Premiership clubs. Bourgoin and Brive joined them in the last eight.
Bourgoin had half-backs Benjamin Boyet and Morgan Parra to thank for their heart-in-mouth 32-30 win over London Irish in the semi-final at the Madejski Stadium. Boyet dropped two goals, while Parra kicked 16 points. Even so, a late, late try from Irish a row Steffon Armitage gave his brother Delon to take the game into extra-time with a successful conversion. He had already landed six kicks and scored 17 points, but the one that mattered missed and Bourgoin, the inaugural winners of the tournament, reached their third final.
Northampton Saints reached the final unbeaten thanks to a hard-fought 16-13 semi-final triumph over Saracens. It had taken 11 points from the bot of Steve Myler to clinch a ticket to the final and the Saints outside half kicked five penalties to win an uncompromising game, which saw Bourgoin replacement Thomas Genevois sent off four minutes from time, 15-3. This was the first final not to feature a try.