EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS LEINSTER endured a tough opening night as they fell to a heavy defeat in Llanelli.
Typically, George North was to the fore as he, along with Adam Fenby, grabbed two tries on the way to a 45-20 win over last season’s losing finalists.
An Ian Madigan penalty opened the scoring after four minutes, but his scores in the first half book-ended tries from Scott and Liam Williams.
14-6 down at half time, Joe Schmidt sent on John Cooney in place of Isaac Boss. The second period was only two minutes old when North built up his head of steam to cross into the right corner after Aled Thomas was stopped just short. The fly-half missed his conversion, but got another opportunity minutes later when Fenby secured the bonus point. 26-6 with 30 minutes remaining.
Both sides empties the bench before the hour mark with Dominic Ryan, his performance a narrow silver lining for Leinster, taken off injured.
Devin Toner grounded the eastern province’s first try of the season, but it was soon followed by a response from Kieran Murphy before North and Fenby grounded number six and seven respectively.
With the game long gone, Madigan registered a late seven points. A minor consolation for a heavy defeat and disappointing performance, even considering the province’s recent habit of starting slow.
In Galway, Connacht suffered a narrow defeat in the end at the hands of Cardiff Blues. The visitors scored all their points in the second quarter of the game.
Eoin Griffin chases Thomas James. ©INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan
Ceri Sweeney punished Connacht with two penalties in five minutes after a score-less opening 20. Five further minutes brought five further points as scrum-half Lewis Jones hopped on a loose ball to claim his first try for the Welsh outfit.
With a steep incline to overcome stand-in fly-half Miah Nikora finally got the scoreboard ticking with a penalty five minutes into the second half.
After the impact of subs – Willie Faloon, Dave Gannon, Adrian Flavin, Rodney Ah You and Matthew Jarvis – Nikora kicked another two off the tee to leave Eric Elwood’s side with 10 minutes to turn one point into four.
Phil Davies, in his first game in charge of a side who lost 12 players in the summer, watched the Blues hang on for their first away win over Connacht since 2005.
Like his fellow Kiwi in Ulster, Rob Penney got off to a winning start against Scottish opposition as Ulster held on to defeat Edinburgh 23-18 in Murrayfield.
In a tightly contested game, Michael Bradley’s Heineken Cup semi-finalists looked to have the measure of the southern province and Tim Visser opened the scoring with a try in the 15th minute.
Ian Keatley knocked over a penalty 10 minutes later and Penney’s men were on the front foot. Just before the half hour mark, Munster looked set to take the lead as they went through a number of phases on the Edinburgh line.
Denis Hurley was held back from planting the ball over the try-line and when BJ Botha took the ball into the next phase, Edinburgh robbed possession through Ross Rennie and number eight Stuart McInally broke clear in the 22 before releasing the un-catchable Tim Visser. A 12 point turn-around.
If that was unfortunate, then the southern province had the ball bounce their way on the stoke of half time. Literally.
Keatley was first on the scene to chase after Doug Howlett’s chip-through and he gratefully accepted the score when the ball bounced back into his hands rather than on into Greig Laidlaw’s. With the aforementioned fly-half having missed both conversion’s from Visser tries, Keatley nailed his two-pointer to send the sides in level – 10-10 – at half time.
James Downey and Casey Laulala showed more than just promise on their first competitive outing as a Munster duo. After penalties were traded, Downey crashed and offloaded on the Edinburgh 22, Luke O’Dea took a superb line to collect and swerve his way under the posts to give Penney’s side a seven point lead with 22 minutes to go.
Keatley tagged on another penalty and it proved crucial as Visser completed his hat-trick in the 72nd minute. The conversion once again proved too difficult for Laidlaw and so, the hosts were left to hammer at the red door in pursuit of the five-point deficit. Munster withstood the late surge.