It was no surprise to us how tough they were to break down
Defending champions Leinster struggled past debutants Exeter in a scrappy 9-6 victory in their European Cup opener on Saturday.
Leinster, the champions in 2009, 2011 and 2012, were forced to grind their way to victory, with Irish international flyhalf Jonathan Sexton kicking three penalties.
Sexton put Leinster ahead in the 11th minute after former Ulster centre Ian Whitten was penalised for playing an opponent in the air.
But the expected avalanche of points never materialised and Exeter drew level on the stroke of half-time when Gareth Steenson succeeded with a penalty after two earlier misses.
Sexton put the champions back in front after 53 minutes but Steenson again pulled Exeter level 12 minutes later when Leinster were penalised for slowing the ball down at a ruck inside their own 22.
Exeter replacement prop Ben Moon was then punished for straying offside in the 74th minute and Sexton gobbled up the opportunity with the decisive penalty in front of the posts.
Exeter had a chance to level in the last minute but Ignacio Mieres went well wide with an optimistic 48-metre penalty attempt.
"It was no surprise to us how tough they were to break down. They are a formidable side," said Leinster coach Joe Schmidt.
"They are greater than the sum of their parts, well coached, well organised and hard to break down."
In the day's other Pool Five game, Clermont came back from 6-13 down to trounce Scarlets 49-16 in France, running in six tries for a crucial bonus point.
Jonathan Davies gave the Welsh visitors a third-minute lead, but it proved to be their only try as Sitiveni Sivivatu, Lee Byrne, Damien Chouly, Julien Bonnaire and Napolini Vonowale-Nalaga all crossed for Clermont with a penalty try also awarded.
Harlequins routed Biarritz 40-13 with a four-try bonus-point performance.
England scrumhalf Danny Care scored the opening try before Arnaud Heguy helped the French draw level to 13-13 at the interval.
But Quins ran riot in the second half with tries from Rob Buchanan, Jordan Turner-Hall and Seb Steggman.
"The players were so positive at half-time and that was good. We kept on trying to play and we knew the scores would come," said Quins Director of Rugby Conor O'Shea.
In the other Pool Three game, Connacht saw off Italian club Zebre 19-10.
Olly Barkley turned in a masterful performance on his debut for Racing-Metro, overseeing a 22-17 victory over former two-time champions Munster in Pool 1.
"You don't win games like that against teams like Munster without a really good team spirit," said Barkley, who finished with 14 points in the Paris rain.
The Irish province scored the game's opening try after 15 minutes when flanker Sean Dougall bounced off a couple of weak tackles to crash over from short distance, with Ronan O'Gara adding the extras.
Against the run of play, Racing scrum-half Maxime Machenaud touched down for a try that Barkley converted to draw the scores level.
Barkley was successful with two more penalties either side of the break, before Munster wing Simon Zebo outpaced Mirco Bergamasco to score a memorable converted try.
Barkley handed the home side the lead once again late in the game, before Bergamasco stretched that further with a late penalty.
Last season's semi-finalists Edinburgh suffered a humiliating 45-0 home drubbing at the hands of Saracens.
The English club scored tries through Sam Tomkins, Owen Farrell, Chris Ashton, Alex Goode and Charlie Hodgson, the fly-half also scoring four penalties and four conversions for a personal haul of 25 points.
"My guys didn't play to our game plan. Instead of kicking the ball beyond the line of Saracens players, they insisted on running into the dragon's den -- we could have been beaten by more," said Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley.
All Saturday's scores and scorers!
Zebre 10-19 Connacht
Pens: Parks 4
Yellow card: Mauro Bergamasco (Zebre, 40)
Zebre: 15 Daniel Halangahu, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Matteo Pratichetti, 12 Gonzalo Garcia (captain), 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Dries van Schalkwyk, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Nicola Belardo, 5 Josh Sole, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Luca Redolfini, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Carlo Fazzari, 19 Mike Van Vuuren, 20 Filippo Ferrarini, 21 Luca Martinelli, 22 Ruggero Trevisan, 23 Leonardo Sarto.
Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 George Naoupu, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 John Muldoon, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Nathan White (captain), 2 Ethienne Reynecke, 1 Dennis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 Dave Gannon, 20 Johnny O'Connor, 21 Dave Moore, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Mata Fifita.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Davies (Wales), Greg Morgan (Wales)
TMO: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)
Racing Metro 22-17 Munster
For Racing Metro:
Pens: Barkley 4, Bergamasco
Tries: Dougall, Zebo
Cons: O'Gara, Keatley
Racing Metro: 15 Benjamin Fall, 14 Julien Jane, 13 Mirco Bergamasco, 12 Fabrice Estebanez, 11 Julien Saubade, 10 Olly Barkley, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Masinivanua Matadigo, 7 Jacques Cronje (captain), 6 Antoine Battut, 5 Francois Van der Merwe, 4 Karim Ghezal, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Andrea Lo Cicero .
Replacements: 16 Thomas Bianchin, 17 Eddy Ben Arous , 18 Benjamin Sa, 19 Fabrice Metz, 20 Bernard le Roux, Sebastien Descons, 21 Camille Gerondeau, 22 Sebastien Descons, 23 Virimi Vakatawa
Munster: 15 Ian Keatley, 14 Doug Howlett (captain), 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Peter O'Mahony. 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Donncha Ryan, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Billy Holland, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Mick Sherry, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave O'Callaghan, 20 Paddy Butler, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Danny Barnes, 23 Denis Hurley.
Referee: Greg Garner (England)
Assistant referees: David Rose (England), Andrew Pearce (England)
TMO: Trevor Fisher (England)
Edinburgh 0-45 Saracens
Tries: Tomkins, Farrell, Ashton, Goode, Hodgson
Cons: Hodgson 4
Pens: Hodgson 4
Yellow card: Schalk Brits (Saracens, 43)
Edinburgh: 15 Tom Brown, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 9 Richie Rees, 8 Stuart McInally, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 David Denton, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Andy Titterrell, 17 Allan Jacobsen, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Robert McAlpine, 20 Netani Talei, 21 Chris Leck, 22 Harry Leonard, 23 Dougie Fife.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 George Kruis, 20 Andy Saull, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Chris Wyles.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Michael Black (Ireland), Olly Hodges (Ireland)
TMO: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)
Leinster 9-6 Exeter Chiefs
Pens: Sexton 3
Pens: Steenson 2
Leinster: 15 Ian Madigan, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Fergus McFadden, 11 Isa Nacewa, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Damian Browne, 4 Leo Cullen (captain), 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Leo Auva'a, 21 Jordi Murphy, 22 Isaac Boss, 23 Fionn Carr.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Ian Whitten, 13 Phil Dollman, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Richard Baxter, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 James Hanks, 4 Tom Hayes (captain, 3 Carl Rimmer, 2 Simon Alcott, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Chris Budgen, 18 Ben Moon, 19 Ally Muldowney, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Sireli Naqelevuki.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant referees: Jean-Luc Rebollal (France), Cyril Lafon (France)
TMO: Daniel Irazoqui (France)
Clermont Auvergne 49-16 Scarlets
Tries: Sivivatu, Penalty try, Byrne, Chouly, Bonnaire, Nalaga
Cons: Parra 4, James
Pens: Parra 3
Pens: Priestland 2
Yellow cards: Morgan Stoddart (Scarlets, 15 and 37)
Red card: Morgan Stoddart (Scarlets - two yellow cards became a red)
Clermont Auvergne: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Aurelien Rougerie (captain), 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Naipolioni Nalaga, 10 Brock James, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Gerhard Vosloo, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Julien Pierre, 20 Elvis Vermeulen, 21 Loic Jacquet, 21 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 22 David Skrela, 23 Benson Stanley.
Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Morgan Stoddart, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Rob McCusker (captain), 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Johan Snyman, 4 George Earle, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Shaun Hopkins, 18 Deacon Manu, 19 Sione Timani, 20 Kieran Murphy, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Gareth Maule.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Paul Haycock (Ireland), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
TMO: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)
Harlequins 40-13 Biarritz
Tries: Care, Buchanan, Turner-Hall, Stegman
Cons: Evans, Botica 3
Pens: Botica 4
Pens: Peyrelongue 2
Yellow card: Dane Haylett-Petty (Biarritz, 17)
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 George Robson, 4 Ollie Kohn, 3 James Johnston, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler,
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Seb Stegmann,
Biarritz: 15 Iain Balshaw, 14 Taku Ngwenya, 13 Dane Haylett-Petty, 12 Seremaïa Burotu, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Mat Berquist, 9 Yann Lesgourgues, 8 Talalelei Gray, 7 Wenceslas Lauret, 6 Magnus Lund (captain), 5 Thibault Dubarry, 4 Erik Lund, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Arnaud Heguy, 1 Fabien Barcella.
Replacements: 16 Benoit August, 17 Lodewikus Blaauw, 18 Thomas Synaeghel, 19 Pelu Taele, 20 Benoit Guyot, 21 Julien Peyrelongue, 22 Damien Traille, 23 Benoît Baby.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Leo Colgan (Ireland), John Carvill (Ireland)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)