With the sad news of Anthony Foley’s death, on-field matters became a secondary concern for the Guinness PRO12 clubs over an extremely difficult opening European weekend.
PRO12 Rugby chairman Gerald Davies has added his voice to the many that paid tribute to Foley following the announcement and the postponement of Munster’s fixture with Racing 92 in the French capital.
Prior to the tragic announcement, there had been a number of strong performances from the Guinness PRO12 clubs, starting with Glasgow Warriors’ humbling of Leicester Tigers on Friday.
That was followed by victories for Leinster, Connacht, and Scarlets in the Champions Cup as well as Challenge Cup successes for Ospreys, Newport Gwent Dragons, Cardiff Blues and Edinburgh Rugby.
And Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend is confident there’s more to come from his side after they secured a try bonus point win over two-time European Champions Leicester in a 42-13 victory.
Leonardo Sarto scored two tries with Mark Bennett, Henry Pyrgos and Fraser Brown also getting their names on the scoresheet in the Pool 3 clash.
Finn Russell added 14 points from the boot as the Tigers conceded their highest points tally in European competition.
“I’ll put my hand up, there were a lot of mistakes with our set-piece attack in the second half – so there is still a bit of work to do this week, but I am delighted with the win,” said Townsend.
“I liked the fact that the momentum came back in our favour and we got two tries from our defence. It’s good that we got to kick-off the Champions Cup and we know we can get better.
“Josh Strauss, Tim Swinson and Jonny Gray got us over the gain line and that allowed Henry Pyrgos to see where the space was and the players reacted well to him.”
Meanwhile, skipper John Muldoon was fully confident his Connacht side would come out on top despite trailing four-time European champions Toulouse at The Sportsground on Saturday.
The French side failed to score a point in the second period as the PRO12 champions came from 21-11 down to win 23-21 after scores from Tiernan O’Halloran and Bundee Aki.
Craig Donaldson had to nail the touchline conversion, and did, to push his side ahead and Connacht held out for the remaining 13 minutes to earn a famous victory.
“We started the season slow and we’ve made mistakes,” the Muldoon told the42.ie. “We made mistakes again, but there’s belief in the squad. There’s belief that we can turn around scores.
“When you’ve got players on your team with speed and handling skills, you always believe you’ll score a try.
“Thankfully we’ve got them in abundance and everyone has key roles, and they’re performing quite well.”
In Leinster, hooker Sean Cronin was at the back of two lineout drives that yielded tries for the home side against Castres Olympique inside the first 30 minutes.
Prop Jack McGrath and captain Isa Nacewa ensured the full five points for the Leinstermen as they continued their strong domestic form with a comfortable victory.
There was also success for Scarlets who beat 28-11 in their Champions Cup opener while Ulster Rugby slipped to a 28-13 defeat at Boredeaux-Begles and Zebre were beaten 82-14 by Wasps.
In the Challenge Cup, the GUINNESS PRO12 teams won four of their five fixtures with the Ospreys leading the way by securing a comfortable 45-0 victory over Newcastle Falcons at the Liberty Stadium.
Dan Biggar surpassed 500 points in Europe during the win and coach Steve Tandy was full of praise for the Welsh fly-half who scored one of seven Osprey tries.
“It isn’t just the points that Dan gives us, he does so many other things,” Tandy said.
“He has a competitive nature around training, he keeps on driving. He’s always out after practice kicking balls. Sam Davies has been putting pressure on him and he’s really responded to it.
“He’s trying to take his game on which is pleasing and he is just a fantastic Osprey and it’s great for him to get the 500-point milestone.”
Meanwhile Edinburgh Rugby racked up their highest Challenge Cup points tally and their biggest win with a 59-17 victory over competition debutants Timisoara Saracens.
Stuart McInally and Nasi Manu both scored hat-tricks for the Scots with Viliame Mata securing a try double as Jason Tovey kicked seven conversions.
Cardiff Blues also got their European campaign off to a strong start with a 33-20 success at Bristol Rugby while Newport Gwent Dragons beat Brive 37-16.
Benetton Treviso were beaten at home 41-10 by La Rochelle.
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