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Champions Cup Round One Review: What they said and best of social

Champions Cup Round One Review: What they said and best of social

European rugby’s top-flight competition returned with a bang at the weekend as seven Gallagher Premiership Rugby clubs went into battle for the first round of the Champions Cup.

Wasps were given a tough examination in their opening game in Pool 1 as they were comprehensively beaten by defending champions Leinster in Dublin.

There were also defeats for Bath Rugby and Leicester Tigers, while Exeter Chiefs were held to a draw by Munster, Gloucester Rugby kicked off their European campaign with a win against Castres and Newcastle Falcons made history on their return to the competition against Toulon.

Here we round up all the reaction after an enthralling start to the Champions Cup, including the best of social media and what was said by those in the thick of the action.

Classy champs run riot

It was a night to forget for Wasps as they suffered a humbling 52-3 defeat at the hands of Leinster on Friday as the Irish province ran in eight tries at the Aviva Stadium.

Dai Young’s troops defended heroically in the first half and only trailed 14-3 at the break after the hosts took advantage of a late yellow card for Lima Sopoaga to score on the cusp of half-time.

But it went from bad to worse after the restart as Leinster scored a further six tries and Young conceded that his side struggled to keep up the intensity for the full 80 minutes.

“We fell away badly in the last 20 minutes, which was disappointing. Obviously, the sin-binning hurt us, conceding just before half-time,” said Young. “It’s up to us now to sort it.

“I thought the intensity and physicality we showed at times was really good, but you can’t do it for 60 minutes against the European champions, you’ve got to do it for the full game.”

Burns blunder costs Bath

In the other game in Pool 1, Bath Rugby came within a whisker of claiming victory against Toulouse before slipping to a narrow 22-20 defeat to the Top 14 side at The Rec.

The moment of the match came in the 75th minute when Freddie Burns crossed the whitewash but slowed to celebrate – allowing Maxime Medard to knock the ball away before he grounded.

His error ultimately cost the Blue, Black and Whites victory and director of rugby Todd Blackadder revealed the 28-year-old was “hurting” after the game and would learn from his mistake.

Burns took to Twitter to apologise to the Bath fans and his teammates, while Rhys Priestland said celebrating before touching the ball down was “not negotiable”.

“It is probably something we need to speak about as a squad – celebrating before we score tries,” said Priestland. “As a squad, I just can’t believe we celebrate before we put the ball down.”

Missed opportunity for Chiefs

Exeter Chiefs appeared on course to launch their European campaign with a hard-fought victory before CJ Stander’s try earned Munster a 10-10 draw at Sandy Park.

Luke Cowan-Dickie gave the hosts the lead at the break as Chiefs repelled relentless pressure from the Irish province, making a remarkable 116 tackles in the opening 40 minutes.

Munster’s perseverance eventually paid off, though, and Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter was left to rue what could have been – a thought echoed by Matt Kvesic and Gareth Steenson.

Baxter said: “At half-time I would have been happy with two points, but at the end with a couple of dominant scrums I thought we missed an opportunity to nick it.

“However, we’ve got two points and there are a lot of teams who won’t have two points on the board after the first round. Munster will be the happier with two points away from home.”

Murphy frustrated by Tigers

Two-time European champions Leicester Tigers conceded three second-half tries as Ulster came from behind to triumph 24-10 at Kingspan Stadium in their Champions Cup opener.

A George Ford penalty had given the visitors the lead at the interval, but interim head coach Geordan Murphy was less than impressed after watching his side lose in Belfast.

“It is frustrating,” Murphy said. “The boys put themselves in a really strong position at half-time 3-0 up so to go out and lose 24-10 is really disappointing.

“But we didn’t help ourselves. At the start of the second half we gave away a couple of really cheap penalties, contentious ones I suppose, but you find yourself in your own 22.

“Our defence was very good at times, especially given the amount of time we spent defending our own goal line, but eventually the toll of defending on your own five-metre line pays.”

Gloucester weather the storm

The Cherry and Whites enjoyed a winning return in the Champions Cup as Johan Ackermann’s men overcame a late fightback from Castres to win 19-14 at a rain-drenched Kingsholm.

It was Gloucester’s first game back at Europe’s top table for five years and they navigated the French champions thanks to a try from Callum Braley and 14 points from Danny Cipriani.

The hosts were put under intense pressure in the closing minutes but managed to hold out to emerge triumphant – and Johan Ackermann was delighted with the character his side showed.

“The score was close and one has to credit them for coming back in the contest and it they were right in it at the end,” said the Gloucester head coach.

“We missed a lot of opportunities to finish them off, but we always knew they were going to be tough. They are big boys and a quality side – they’re not the champions for nothing.”

Falcons make history

Newcastle Falcons put aside their difficult start to the Gallagher Premiership Rugby season to record a memorable 26-25 victory over three-time Champions Cup winners Toulon at the Stade Mayol.

The visitors conceded a try after just 23 seconds but they fought back to lead 16-15 at the break before withstanding late pressure from the Top 14 side to come out on top.

It was Falcons’ first game back among Europe’s elite after 13 seasons and they became only the second team, after Saracens, to win at Toulon in the competition.

Speaking after his side’s victory, Dean Richards said: “It was a hell of a game, the boys threw everything at it and it was fantastic that we came through and got the win that we deserved in the end.

“Our defence was strong, we played in the right areas and the tactics from the boys were outstanding. We got it right, and the players should take a huge amount of credit.”

Bruising encounter for Saracens

The reigning Gallagher Premiership Rugby champions were pushed to the limit by Glasgow Warriors before claiming a 13-3 victory over the Guinness Pro14 side in their Champions Cup opener.

Glasgow had tries from DTH van der Merwe and Lee Jones ruled out in a bruising battle as Michael Rhodes’ first-half try ensured the Men in Black got off to a winning start.

Owen Farrell also kicked a conversion and two penalties for the visitors, while Adam Hastings’ penalty was all the Scottish side had to show for their efforts.

Saracens, who won the trophy in 2016 and 2017, were far from their best, director of rugby Mark McCall admitted he was always expecting a difficult game in Glasgow.

“It was a tough old game,” said McCall. “It wasn’t our best performance, far from it, but a lot of that is down to the opposition that you are playing against. We had to scrap.”

 

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