Newport Gwent Dragons were given a harsh lesson yesterday as Stade Français finally flexed their muscles thanks to three tries during a blistering 13-minute spell in the first half.
Christophe Dominici sent the full-back, Ignacio Corleto, tip-toeing down the line for the first before Stade made the most of Jason Forster's time in the sin bin, going over twice before the break. Dominici then added his name to the scoresheet before the captain. Mathieu Blin, made it five tries in the dying moments.
The Dragons, competing for the first time as a new entity in the Heineken Cup, had breathed fire into the new professional era in Wales with one of the shocks of the tournament last week by beating Stade 20-12 at Rodney Parade.
But all their hard work was undone as the Dragons were shown the dangers of trying to mix with such exalted company in Paris. They were not helped by the over-zealous refereeing of the Italian official, Giulio De Santis, who sent no fewer than three Welshmen to the sin bin for what appeared to be minor indiscretions.
The Dragons were always likely to struggle, even with a full side, and the gulf in class was only too evident from the early, ominous stages as the French aristocrats revelled in the sunshine. Having been shut out in Newport, Stade ran in five tries without reply.
"Once you let teams like that get on the front foot they are pretty hard to stop,'' the Dragons' coach, Mike Ruddock, said. "This is a very tough place to come to and this game will have been a painful but necessary lesson that our new and young team will have to learn from.
"But it's games like this that strengthen you and help you build for the future. I saw it before first-hand with the Irish provinces and it will happen for the Welsh. People can see that there is something there and this result only emphasises what an achievement our performance was last week and against Ulster.
"Before the tournament had even started, many would have predicted that we would lose all six of our games,'' Ruddock said. "So I'm very proud of what we've already achieved. We know Europe is probably a little too early for us but we have already beaten the Celtic League champions, the French champions and now we have the double European Cup-winners on their way.''
The Dragons host Leicester Tigers this weekend, while Stade entertain Ulster in Paris.
Stade's South African coach, Nick Mallett, said: "The Heineken Cup can be extraordinary at times. Just look at our pool and the way teams have recovered and turned over opposition they have just lost to when playing back home.You never know what will happen."
Stade Français: Tries M Blin 2, I Corletto, P Rabadan, C Dominici; Conversions D Dominguez 3; Penalties D Dominguez 2.
Stade Français: I Corleto (R Poulain, 61); T Lombard, S Glas (D Skrela, 40), B Liebenberg (M Bergamasco, 67), C Dominici; D Dominguez, G Mahe; S Marconnet, M Blin (capt), P De Villiers, P Tabacco, A Marchois, C Moni (R Jechoux, 70), R Martin, P Rabadan.
Newport Gwent Dragons: P Montgomery; G Arasa (N Brew, 63), H Luscombe, A Marinos (capt) (S Winn, 65), B Breeze; L Jarvis, G Baber (S Tuipulotu, 74); R Snow (A Black, 67), S Jones, C Anthony, M Owen, P Sidoli, J Ringer (R Snow, 75), J Forster, R Beattie (R Oakley, 40).
Referee: G de Santis (Italy).