Brendon O’Connor may have ensured he was an instant hit an Welford Road – scoring one try and making another – but Richard Cockerill reserved his praise for head coach Aaron Mauger after Leicester Tigers defeated Stade Francais 33-20 on Friday evening.
In a repeat of the 2001 European Cup final, replacement scrum-half Julien Tomas opened the scoring with a brilliant team try for the visitors having come on for the injured Julien Dupuy.
But after Morne Steyn landed a huge penalty, O'Connor began the home revival when he won a vital turnover and Vereniki Goneva crossed the whitewash wide on the left.
Matt Smith then powered over in the same corner to give the Tigers a deserved half-time lead, before the home side made it 20 points in 15 minutes with O'Connor’s 50-metre run to score in the corner and an Owen Williams penalty.
Stade skipper Sergio Parisse set up Paul Williams brilliantly to keep the French side in the contest, but Ben Youngs’ effort secured the bonus-point win for Tigers despite Julien Arias’ late consolation try.
And director of rugby Cockerill admits he could not be happier with the impact Mauger has made on his side after they scooped their first try-bonus of the season.
"Aaron has been really good for us,” he said. “He questions everything we do and I've been doing the same. We come from different ends of the game but it gives us a really good balance.
“Geordan Murphy as well helps the environment, we scored some great tries tonight. The sides who win trophies are the sides who can play all types of rugby.
“Our intent to play was really good tonight, it might have got us in trouble a few times but even when we went behind we trusted what we were doing and it started bearing fruit for us.
“We needed to carry the ball at them more in the early stages. But our intent to play was shown by the fact we got four tries and a bonus-point which is really important for us. For them not to get anything is just as important, so it's a great start for us.
“Brendon O'Connor will only get better, he scored a great try and had a great steal for one of the others.
“He's getting integrated into the team now and he's English qualified. He's a great lad and an out-and-out seven.”
Elsewhere Newcastle’s frustrating run of results continued as they fell 13-9 in France to Brive.
Elia Radikedike handed the hosts the best possible start with a try after 14 minutes, and discipline was the issue for Falcons as despite Tom Catterick's three penalties, Nicolas Bezy added eight points from the boot to maintain Brive’s advantage.
Despite ending the game camped on their hosts’ line Newcastle could not find a way over the whitewash, and Dean Richards concedes they need to be more clinical.
He said: “Entering into the match the boys said they were going to give it their all, and they did do. They held nothing back and, to be fair to them, we should have won. It was there for the taking.
“If for a couple of stray passes the result should have been ours, but that’s life, unfortunately. We will put it behind us and win the next game – simple as that.”
Leicester Tigers 33 Stade Francais Paris 20
Tries: Goneva, O'Connor, Smith, B Youngs
Conversions: O Williams 2
Penalties: Baikeinuku, O Williams 2
Stade Francais Paris 20
Tries: Arias, Tomas, P Williams
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Brive 13 Newcastle Falcons 9
Penalties: Bezy 2
Penalties: Catterick 3
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)