HEINEKEN CUP CHAMPIONS Leinster were given a wake-up call before the start of the 2012/13 campaign as they were hammered 43-0 against Northampton Saints.
Joe Schmidt’s men held out the home side for more than 20 minutes turned up the heat on a young Leinster side to go in 17-0 at the break.
Schmidt made a raft of changes at half-time and it looked to have given his side some added steel. However, Saints, cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd at Franklins Gardens, put the hammer down.
They scored four tries in the final 13 minutes to give Schmidt and his players plenty to think about.
The Saints tries came from Dominic Waldouck, Paul Diggin, Vasily Artemyev, Scott Armstrong, Tom Wood, Tom May and Noah Cato.
Ripper at Ravenhill
Ulster got off to a roaring start at Ravenhill and pressed a strong Leicester side in the early stages.
They were rewarded for their positivity when a drive forward forced Tigers into desperation defending. A penalty try was awarded and Leicester’s Micky Young was sent to the sin-bin.
Niall O’Connor had the simple conversion chance in front of the posts and he added the extras.
Ulster led 7-0 at half-time while some of the senior players, including Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble, kept themselves busy on the sidelines:
Tigers had the best of the early running in the second-half but the biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for a Paddy Jackson tackle on Manu Tuilagi that resulted with the hefty winger bundled out of play.
A somewhat muted reception greeted Leicester’s furst try, scored by Vereniki Goneva, and worried murmurs when Tigers number eight Thomas Waldron touched down with five minutes left on the clock.
Ulster would not allow the visitors to spoil the party, however, and Chris Cochrane sold a great dummy on his way to a score under the posts in the closing moments. Jackson added the extras to leave the game tied 14-14.
Revenge for Quins
Harlequins were beaten 9-8 by Connacht when they travelled to Galway in last season’s Heineken Cup and revenge was on the cards when the two sides faced each other at The Stoop.
Within 20 minutes the visitors were 14-0 down, with Nick Easter running amok and Miah Nikora in the sin-bin.
Matthew Jarvis’ penalty got Connacht on the scoreboard and the returning Nikora made in 14-6 before George Lowe pounced for another Quins try. Ross Chisholm crossed over to make it 26-6 at the break.
Robbie Henshaw made it a contest, of sorts, when he got a try early in the second-half but Danny Care responded with a five-pointer for the home side. Chisholm got his second of the afternoon to make it 45-11 with just under 20 minutes to go.
The final whistle was the only escape for Eric Elwood’s men, who will next be in action against Cardiff Blues in the Pro12.