European Club Rugby Review: Van der Flier stars for Leinster as Alldritt leads La Rochelle to opening round win

Temperatures plummeted on the opening weekend but that did not stop Guinness Six Nations stars bringing the heat to European club rugby.

Temperatures plummeted on the opening weekend but that did not stop Guinness Six Nations stars bringing the heat to European club rugby.

Leinster’s Ireland stars powered them to a mightily impressive six-try 42-10 win over Racing 92 in Le Havre to lay down the gauntlet once again in the Champions Cup.

Andrew Porter struck first after just three minutes with Dan Sheehan and Garry Ringrose also dotting down before the break.

Scotland fly-half Finn Russell only able to score a single penalty as last season’s beaten finalists led 21-3.

World Rugby Player of the Year Josh van der Flier scored a brace of tries in the second half in what was a comprehensive victory for the Irish side, with the hosts only mustering a Christian Wade try in response.

Leinster were beaten in a thriller by La Rochelle last year and Les Maritimes were just as impressive in defeating Northampton Saints 46-12 at the Stade Marcel-Deflandre.

France No.8 Gregory Alldritt scored one of the six tries on their way to a comprehensive opening victory to start their title defence.

Ronan O’Gara’s men suffered defeat to Toulouse in the 2021 final and the five-time winners once again showed their European prowess when defeating  Munster 18-13.

Ireland fly-half Joey Carbery scored all 13 points for the home side, but a try from France winger Matthis Lebel and eight vital points from the tee from Thomas Ramos was enough for the French side to sneak the win in difficult conditions.

Italy fly-half Tommaso Allan found himself on the wrong end of a defeat in an historic thriller at Hollywoodbets Kings Park as Harlequins narrowly lost 39-31 to the Cell C Sharks as the Champions Cup was staged in South Africa for the first time.

Italian team-mate Paolo Garbisi was on the winning side however as Montpellier overcame London Irish 32-27, with Garbisi’s involvement at inside centre a success, giving Italy more options heading into the Guinness Six Nations.

There was more joy for Azzurri players, with scrum-half Stephen Varney crossing for Gloucester in their 22-17 win over Bordeaux Begles at Kingsholm, while in the European Challenge Cup legendary No.8 Sergio Parisse dotted down in a 24-21 win for Toulon over Zebre.

Wales fly-half Dan Biggar made his debut for the French side, who were beaten by Lyon in last season’s final.

He was not the only Wales star enjoying an opening-round victory in the Challenge Cup, with Cardiff defeating Brive 41-0 at the Cardiff Arms Park to end a winless run for Welsh sides dating back to December 2020.

Winger Josh Adams scored one of seven tries in a dominant display, with former Wales and British and Irish Lions hooker Kristian Dacey scoring a brace of first half tries.

Young fly-half Sam Costelow scored 14 points in Scarlets’ 39-7 win over Bayonne just a month after earning his first Wales cap in the Autumn Nations Series while despite Nicky Smith’s try, Ospreys were unable to overcome Leicester Tigers, falling 23-17 after England winger Anthony Watson’s second-half try.

2020 champions Exeter Chiefs earned a bonus point win in France as they defeated Castres 27-12, with England back row Sam Simmonds going over for the Chiefs as they began in style.

Simmonds’ England back row teammate Tom Curry was also at his very best, scoring the first of six Sale Sharks tries in their 39-0 win over Ulster at the AJ Bell Stadium.

The composition of England’s back row will be a difficult conundrum to solve for the new head coach and there was another one in try-scoring form at the StoneX Stadium as Ben Earl bundled over in Saracens’ narrow 30-26 win over Edinburgh.

Elliott Daly finished a well-taken try in the corner after jumping ahead of Scotland winger Duhan van der Merwe from Owen Farrell’s pinpoint cross-kick with Farrell nailing 10 points from the tee.

There was victory for one Scottish side this weekend though, as Glasgow Warriors overcame Bath 22-19 in the Challenge Cup thanks to tries from Scotland internationals George Turner and Huw Jones at the Recreation Ground.