Heineken Cup Round 1 wrap

Injury-hit Leicester staged a dramatic second half fightback to draw 32-32 with Neath-Swansea Ospreys on Sunday as the opening round of the European Cup threw up some surprises.


Last season’s losing finalists needed a storming try from Jeremy Staunton in the dying minutes, converted by man-of-the-match Billy Twelvetrees, to earn a share of the spoils and a four-try bonus point.


In Toulouse, Sale Sharks failed to bite into the former European champions and went down 36-17.


The southern French outfit ran in five tries for a bonus point and dominated the forward battles to lead 24-3 by half-time.


Two tries by French three-quarter Vincent Clerc set a new Cup record of 30, beating Welshman’s Dafydd James previous mark of 28 tries.


Toulouse manager Guy Noves described the first-half performance as “virtually excellent”, but warned that next week at Harlequins “it will certainly be tougher.”

 

After a shakly start to the season, Toulouse captain Thierry Dusautoir noted: “We are getting our confidence back bit by bit.

Now we need to play at this level throughout a match.” Sale coach Alan Blease looked for positives for the future.


“It is very important to learn from this game if we want to improve,” he said. “We need to remember those (opening) 20 minutes.


Those young guys need it.” In Leicester, the Tigers, who have not lost at Welford Road for more than a year, trailed 26-8 late in the first half.


Tries from Lions Shane Williams and Tommy Bowe backed by 22 points from teenage fly-half Dan Biggar had put Ospreys well in command.


Leicester boss Richard Cockerill summed up the fighting spirit.


“We had players unavailable and pulling out at the last minute.


“The attitude to just go out and play and not give up is what this side is about. “

 

“The spirit of the players today was fantastic.”

 

“We pride ourselves on having people who want to play for us and not for the money. You can buy a team but you can’t buy spirit.

Ospreys missed out on a rare chance for victory at Leicester.


Coach Scott Johnson said: “If you had offered us two points prior to coming here we’d have taken it but we are totally disappointed.


“We controlled the scoreboard for large parts of the game but it came down to the fact we couldn’t get quality ball to play off often enough.”

 

Italian minnows Treviso claimed the major upset of the weekend downing French champions Perpignan on Saturday.

South African fly-half Marius Goosen kicked three penalties in the 9-8 victory.


Perpignan, finalists in 2004, will be looking to bounce back next week when they host Northampton, who edged group favourites Munster 31-27.


Treviso manager Franco Properzi proclaimed the win the greatest in their European Cup history.


“We’ve had some good results in the past, but in this game we beat the French champions – we’ve never done that before,” said Properzi.


Defending champions Leinster’s 9-12 unexpected defeat on Friday to London Irish had set the stage.


Other games failed to throw up any more shocks and Llanelli Scarlets beat French side Brive 24-12, Clermont ran out a convincing 36-18 win over Italians Viadana and Stade Francais beat Edinburgh 31-7.


An ineffective Harlequins were outplayed 20-6 by Cardiff while another Scottish side, Glasgow Warriors, were beaten 18-22 by visiting Biarritz.


In Paris, Stade Francais opened their Cup campaign with a 31-7 whipping of Edinburgh.


Stade touched down four times, securing a bonus point, by the half hour mark.


Stade went top of the group ahead of Ulster after the Irish province’s 26-12 defeat of Bath, who visit the French capital next weekend.

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