South African clubs help Champions Cup kick off in style
The 2022/23 Champions Cup began in superb fashion this weekend as the three debuting South African clubs immediately made their mark in Round 1.
Vodacom Bulls and Lyon produced arguably one of the best games of the opening round, the two teams running in 11 tries between them as the hosts clinched an incredible 42-36 win in Pretoria.
Cell C Sharks were also involved in an enthralling, high-scoring affair as a Makazole Mapimpi double helped them to a 39-31 victory over Harlequins in a 10-try thriller in Durban.
DHL Stormers made the trip to ASM Clermont Auvergne and showcased their credentials early on at Stade Marcel-Michelin, but 14 points from Jules Plisson helped the hosts recover from 14-3 down at half-time to win 24-14.
Rugby 101 - How To Hit A Line 📚
Your teacher for the lesson is @SaleSharksRugby's Tom Curtis 👨🏫
For more lessons, watch the extended highlights from all the weekend's #HeinekenChampionsCup matches on our YouTube channel: https://t.co/MFUWUa5er6 pic.twitter.com/NDJo4HYHt6
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 12, 2022
In the opening game on Friday night, London Irish’s return to EPCR’s elite competition ended in defeat as they went down 32-27 to Montpellier Hérault Rugby, a red card for the hosts’ Agustin Creevy a key turning point at Gtech Community Stadium.
Last season’s finalists Leinster Rugby laid down a marker early on Saturday as they put six tries past Racing 92 at Stade Océane, 2022 EPCR European Player of the Year Josh van der Flier notching a brace in a spectacular 42-10 triumph.
Reigning champions Stade Rochelais were also in fine form as six different players got over the whitewash in a 46-12 mauling of Northampton Saints at Stade Marcel Deflandre.
Gloucester Rugby enjoyed an exhilarating turnaround against Union Bordeaux-Bègles, recovering from 12 points down at the break to beat the TOP 14 outfit 22-17 at Kingsholm Stadium.
Exeter Chiefs recorded an impressive 24-12 win at Castres Olympique, Sam Simmonds finishing well to notch the first of the 2020 champions’ four tries at Stade Pierre Fabre.
What a weekend of #HeinekenChampionsCup action 🤩@leinsterrugby and @SaleSharksRugby top the Pool Standings after Week 1 📈— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 11, 2022
Sum up your team's performance with an emoji 👇 pic.twitter.com/OyjlDgUwWl
Sale Sharks kicked off Sunday’s action with a commanding 39-0 success over Ulster Rugby, Robert du Preez tallying 14 points for the Gallagher Premiership side at AJ Bell Stadium.
A re-run of last season’s quarter-final between heavyweights Munster Rugby and Stade Toulousain ended in victory for the TOP 14 side once again, Matthis Lebel’s try for the visitors a standout moment at Thomond Park.
Saracens were given a run for their money by Edinburgh Rugby at StoneX Stadium, Tom Woolstencroft’s try the difference in the three-time champions’ 30-26 win after 16 points from the impressive Emiliano Boffelli had kept the Scottish region in contention.
Leicester Tigers completed a gripping opening round as they held on for a 23-17 win at Ospreys, much thanks to a stunning individual try by Anthony Watson.