Llanelli and Celtic Warriors provided further proof that the resurgence in Welsh rugby is here to stay with victories in the Heineken Cup on Friday.
Llanelli, for whom the veteran No 8 Scott Quinnell was man of the match, overcame the challenge posted by former champions Northampton. The Saints, despite recalling their England World Cup trio of Ben Cohen, Steve Thompson and Paul Grayson, lost the Pool Four encounter 14-9. Quinnell scored the only try of a scrappy game.
Northampton were forced to rely on the boot of Paul Grayson, with two penalties, and one from Shane Drahm, but they returned home with the consolation of a valuable bonus point.
Attacking opportunities were at a premium, and ultimately three Stephen Jones penalties and Quinnell's try enabled Llanelli to enjoy a winning start.
"This is a tough place to come and play, and I thought that we showed a lot of spirit," the Saints coach Wayne Smith said. "In the end, at least we have come away with something in terms of the bonus point, but we didn't put too many of our sequences together tonight."
Celtic Warriors made a winning start when prevailing 34-25 in an exciting Pool Six tie against Calvisano at the Brewery Field.
"I am absolutely delighted to have won our first game and got maximum points," said the Warriors coach Lynn Howells. "For 20 minutes we played like we know we can but then made some silly mistakes which let Calvisano back in the game.
"Their confidence grew and they did look good, but I felt we were the better side."
Sililo Martens and Kevin Morgan combined to put Gareth Wyatt over after five minutes and a burst by Sonny Parker gave Dafydd James a try 11 minutes later.
A strong run by Richard Parks led to a try by captain Gareth Thomas and, with Sweeney converting all three, the Warriors looked totally in command and had raced into a commanding 21-3 lead in the opening half-hour.
They then lost their focus and in the remaining 10 minutes of the first half they gifted Calvisano three soft tries. The Italy wing Nicola Mazzuccato scored the first from 50 metres while the other wing, Emiliano Mulieri, scored the second from a similar distance. Their third came in injury time when a deft chip by Gerard Fraser saw James fumble the ball and Massimo Ravazzolo pounced.
Fortunately for the home side Ceri Sweeney crossed for a try four minutes after the interval and from then on the Warriors always looked the likelier winners.
In the Parker Pen Challenge Cup it was a case of a new coaching regime, same old result as Rotherham slumped to a 17-10 home defeat at the hands of Narbonne.
Rotherham, who brought the South African Stef Nel in as director of rugby during the week, have lost all 11 Zurich Premiership this season and were unable to break the losing habit at Millmoor in front of 1,250 fans.
Cedric Rosalen kicked two early penalties for the visitors before Pascal Bazini crossed for a try after 23 minutes, for a 11-0 lead. Rotherham rallied and earned their first points via the boot of Jon Benson, although Rosalen kicked another penalty two minutes into the second half.
Benson hit back though, scoring a try after 47 minutes and adding the conversion to give the home side some hope of success. However, it was Rosalen who again thwarted them, kicking a penalty after 65 minutes to put Narbonne out of reach.Reuse content