The Munster coach, Tony McGahan, was left to rue a bittersweet 22-16 victory over Ospreys in Pool Three at Thomond Park yesterday as Paul O'Connell saw red 10 minutes into his Heineken Cup comeback.
The province's inspirational captain received his marching orders after a swinging right arm appeared to make contact with Ospreys No 8 Jonathan Thomas, who ended up in a heap on the floor. The referee Christophe Berdos did not see the incident at first but after consultation with his assistant David Rose, he decided that a red card was justified.
McGahan said: "I was hoping I was colour blind. But unfortunately my eyesight is good enough because I'm still young. We had a brief look at it. We really haven't looked at it in enough depth to give any real comment. What we saw was the same as what everyone else saw, a reaction to (Thomas) holding on to the jersey.
O'Connell's red card was the only blot on an otherwise satisfactory day for Munster, who overturned a 13-8 deficit with converted tries from David Wallace and Johne Murphy. Doug Howlett scored their first half try.
Leinster stay one point clear at the top of Pool Two despite losing 20-13 to Clermont Auvergne in France yesterday. The Irish province managed to lcing on to a losing bonus point after Morgan Parra missed a late penalty.
Shock of the weekend went to Italian newcomers Aironi, who handed a 28-27 defeat to Pool Four leaders Biarritz courtesy of a last-gasp drop-goal from the full-back Julien Laharrague at Stadio Luigi Zaffanella, with Matteo Pratichetti, Nick Williams and James Marshall all try-scorers for the hosts.
Biarritz, last season's Heineken Cup runners-up, thought they had secured the win when their scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili kicked a penalty with just eight minutes left, but Laharrague's clinching drop-goal in the 78th minute meant that Aironi prevailed.
Ulster moved to second in Pool Four by beating Bath 22-18. Errors from Ulster lead to Jack Cuthbert and Lewis Moody touching down for Bath in the first half, but Ulster responded with a try from Pedrie Wannenburg, before Ian Humphreys' match-winning intervention left Bath with a losing bonus point. The Ulster fly-half posted five penalties and one conversion to see his side home.
"It was a smashing win and performance," said the Ulster head coach Brian McLaughlin. "They pushed us every inch of the way and bar an outstanding tackle by [Ulster winger] Andrew Trimble in the last seconds it could have been different."
Perpignan beat Liecester 24-19 in Pool Five at the Stade Aime Giral. The result ended Tigers' unbeaten record but they walked away with a bonus point and stay first in the pool. Geordan Murphy scored Liecester's only try, with fly-half Toby Flood posting four penalties and a conversion, while the French team's tries came from Adrien Plante and Jerome Porical.