Flying start for champs Toulon
Flying start for champs ToulonSHARE
Toulon kicked-off the defence of their European Cup crown with half-a-dozen tries, but they also found out that qualifying from Pool Two isn't going to be easy.
Having secured a try bonus point by half time, when they led 34-0, they conceded four tries as they lost the second half 28-17 to a resurgent Glasgow Warriors side who came back from the dead to pick up a priceless try bonus themselves.
Given how hopelessly overrun they had been in the first half it was an amazing turn around by Gregor Townsend's team, especially as Toulon had only conceded seven tries in nine games in the Top 14 this season.
Jonny Wilkinson returned to the home starting line-up and orchestrated a brilliant opening period in which the home side scored 17 points in as many minutes. He then converted skipper Chis Masoe's try to make it 24-0, but then left the field with an ice pack on his right hand.
Such is the strength in depth of the Toulon squad that Wilkinson's departure led to the arrival of Frederic Michalak. Toulon started with a team containing 956 caps, and had new signing Bryan Habana watching from the stand.
There were four tries for the home side by the break, with French international Maxime Mermoz grabbing two of them, and they led 34-0. Glasgow had been unable to get their hands on the ball and spent most of the opening 40 minutes chasing shadows.
But that all changed in the second half, which they won 28-10, when they finally got to the pace of the game and began to gain some possession. Canadian international wing DTH van der Merwe was introduced at half-time and Niko Matawalu moved off the wing to scrumhalf.
They made a massive impact and scored three of the four tries between them. Van der Merwe crossed within two minutes of coming on and that gave Glasgow the confidence to throw caution to the wind.
Matt Giteau grabbed one back for Toulon, but then it was all Glasgow and Matawalu, Jonny Gray and van der Merwe again crossed for tries all of which Ruardhi Jackson converted to cut the gap from 34 points at the break to 13 with 20 minutes to go.
A Michalak penalty steadied the ship for the a and then Giteau, who started at centre and ended up at flyhalf, scampered over for his second try to round off a magnificent match.
Tries: Delon Armitage, Mermoz 2, Masoe, Giteau 2
Cons: Wilkinson 3, Giteau, Michalak 2
Pens: Wilkinson, Michalak 2
Tries: Van der Merwe, Matawalu, Gray
Cons: Jackson 3
Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Maxime Mermoz, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 David Smith, 10 Jonny Wilkinson (captain), 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Joe van Niekerk, 6 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Benjamin Noirot, 1 Emmanuel Felsina.
Replacements: 16 Levan Chilachava, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Carl Hayman, 19 Steffon Armitage, 20 Juan Smith, 21 Drew Mitchell, 22 Frederic Michalak, 23 Danie Rossouw.
Glasgow: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Niko Matawalu, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Tim Swinson, 5 Al Kellock (captain), 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Moray Low, 18 Ed Kalman, 19 James Eddie, 20 Richie Vernon, 21 Duncan Weir, 22 Byron McGuigan, 23 DTH van der Merwe.
Referee: Greg Garner (England)
Assistant referees: Andrew Small (England), Robin Goodliffe (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
Exeter Chiefs 44-29 Cardiff Blues
Exeter Chiefs made a real statement of intent in the European Cup after inflicting a six-try demolition on Cardiff Blues.
The Welsh region endured a horror first-half as the Chiefs ran riot with tries from Tom Johnson, Dean Mumm, Matt Jess, Fetu Vainikolo and Ben White.
They continued to punish the Blues in the second-half with Ian Whitten crossing the whitewash before the Welsh region finally responded.
Lloyd Williams and Robin Copeland both darted over for virtually identical tries with Halfpenny adding the extras.
And Alex Cuthbert and Harry Robinson ensured the Blues claimed a try-scoring bonus-point to soften the blow.
Exeter made a commanding start to the encounter with the likes of Dave Ewers carrying to good effect and Gareth Steenson pulling the strings.
But the first real chance fell to Cory Allen who half intercepted Steenson's pass but left the ball behind.
The Chiefs worked their way back down field and launched a sustained period of pressure with ferocious ball carrying and Johnson eventually powered over.
Steenson missed the conversion and Cardiff quickly cut the deficit through the boot of Halfpenny.
But Exeter continued to dominate the territorial battle and Steenson made amends for his earlier miss to bring the scores to 8-3.
And the hosts stretched their lead when Mumm burst through a ruck and cantered home on 24 minutes, with Steenson adding the extras.
It took just two minutes for them to kick the scoreboard back into action. Phil Dollman made the initial inroads and Matt Jess eventually raced clear, with Steenson again converting.
And they wrapped up the bonus-point and virtually sealed the result as Vainikolo cut inside Alex Cuthbert.
Steenson converted to bring the scores to 29-3 on the half hour mark but there was still time for Exeter to notch up a fifth, with White powering over against his former team.
And the Chiefs flyhalf dissected the posts to hand his side an emphatic 36-3 lead at the interval.
The Devon club claimed a sixth try shortly after 50 minutes with the superb Steenson sending Ian Whitten over.
Williams and Copeland claimed quick-fire tries to give the Welsh region a glimmer of hope and Exeter were dealt a double blow with Whitten and Sireli Naqelevuki sent to the sin-bin in quick succession.
The Blues capitalised on their numerical advantage as Cuthbert squeezed in the corner and Robinson salvaged a try-scoring bonus-point in the closing stages.
Tries: Johnson, Mumm, Jess, Vainikolo, White, Whitten
Cons: Steenson 4
Pens: Steenson, Slade
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Williams, Copeland, Cuthbert, Robinson
Cons: Halfpenny 3
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Matt Jess, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Dave Ewers, 7 Ben White, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (captain), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Chris Whitehead, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Carl Rimmer, 19 Don Armand, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Sireli Naqelevuki.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Andries Pretorius, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Tau Filise, 2 Matthew Rees (captain), 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Richard Smith.
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Patrick Pechambert (France) Sébastien Clouté (France)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)
Racing Métro 13-9 Clermont
For Racing Métro:
Pens: Sexton 2
Pens: Parra 3
Racing Métro:15 Benjamin Lapeyre, 14 Marc Andreu, 13 Fabrice Estebanez, 12 Juan Martin Hernandez, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Jonny Sexton, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Jacques Cronje, 7 Antoine Battut, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Juandre Kruger, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski (captain), 1 Davit Khinchagishvili.
Replacements:16 Virgile Lacombe, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Julien Brugnaut, 19 Fabrice Metz, 20 Bernard Le Roux, 21 Laurent Magnaval, 22 Henry Chavancy, 23 Benjamin Dambielle.
Clermont: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Aurélien Rougerie (captain), 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Brock James, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Julien Bardy, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Loic Jacquet, 20 Gerhard Vosloo, 21 Thierry Lacrampe, 22 Benson Stanley, 23 Jean-Marcel Buttin.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Gwyn Morris (Wales), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Derek Bevan (Wales)