Leinster, beaten by eventual runners-up Perpignan in last season's Heineken Cup semi-final at Lansdowne Road, returned to their favourite venue with a vengeance yesterday when they ran in four tries en route to seeing off Biarritz 32-6 in their opening Pool Three fixture.
Powerhouse wing Shane Horgan, fresh from an impressive World Cup campaign, crossed twice for the Dublin-based side whose other touchdowns came from back-row forward Eric Miller, another of Ireland's performers Down Under, and unsung second row Ben Gissing.
Scrum-half Brian O'Meara provided the other points, kicking three conversions and two penalties, while his opposite number Dmitri Yachvili was the French side's only scorer with a penalty and a drop goal. The teams also shared the game's two yellow cards with Olivier Nauroy being sent to the sin-bin in the first half and Brian O'Driscoll taking a 10-minute break shortly after the interval.
The three English clubs in action in the first round of the Parker Pen Challenge Cup had comfortable first-leg victories away from home. Newcastle Falcons reigned in Spain, rattling up 11 tries as they bliltzed Valladolid 71-10. Tom May bagged a hat-trick and Michael Stephenson, Jonny Wilkinson's older brother, Mark, and the Tongan flanker Epi Taione claimed a brace apiece. Mark Mayerhofler and Jamie Noon also went over while David Walder supplied eight conversions. The Spaniards eventually made their mark with popular tries by brothers Miguel and Oscar Frechilla.
Saracens returned from Roma with a 45-13 win under their belts. The brilliance of their fly-half, Thomas Castaignède, who was surplus to France's requirements during the World Cup, proved too much for the Italian minnows. The England back-row forward Richard Hill scored two of five first-half tries for Saracens, who rested captain Taine Randell and scrum-half Kyran Bracken and were also without full-back Richard Haughton, who was on England Sevens duty.
Zurich Premiership leaders Bath recorded a 75-11 victory - their highest score in Europe - over Italian club L'Aquila. Prop Matt Stevens helped himself to three of their 11 tries - 10 of which were converted by Olly Barkley, who also touched down. James Scaysbrook and Simon Danielli went over for doubles and Kevin Maggs, Matt Perry and James Hudson completed the scoring.
Uruguay's Rodrigo Capo Ortega scored two tries from the base of the scrum to steer Castres to a comfortable 53-14 victory at Rovigo and Grenoble beat GRAN Parma 35-10, with the wing Jean Victor Bertrand going over twice.
Worcester maintained their four-point lead in National League One with maximum points in their 71-10 thrashing of visitors Penzance/Newlyn. Orrell kept in touch with their rivals with a 57-24 home win over Bedford.
Leeds make their Heineken Cup debut today at Headingley in Pool One against Neath-Swansea Ospreys. Ulster, trophy winners in 1999, travel to Newport to face Gwent Dragons for whom the South African full-back Percy Montgomery returns after serving a lengthy ban for pushing over a touch judge last season. Also in Pool Two, Edinburgh entertain Toulouse while Wasps are at home to Perpignan in Pool Six at High Wycombe.
Harlequins tackle Spanish champions Cetransa El Salvador in the Parker Pen Cup this afternoon without Will Greenwood, Jason Leonard, Andre Vos and Paul Burke. London Irish take on Montauban in France while Connacht go to Béziers and Rugby Parma host Pau.
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