Ulster and Cardiff Blues got their European campaigns off to a winning start with superb victories on Friday night.
Ulster dug deep to see off Aviva Premiership Rugby giants Wasps, while Cardiff Blues produced one of their best performances of the season to down Lyon.
Six more Guinness PRO14 teams begin their campaigns tomorrow and will hope to carry on the early momentum generated by Ulster and Cardiff.
The European Champions Cup’s first heavyweight clash of the season may have been one for the purists but it did not lack in drama or excitement.
Ulster trailed 6-3 at the break in a game dominated by strong defences but two tries in a couple of second-half minutes catapulted them to victory.
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) October 13, 2017
Jacob Stockdale, one of the most in-form players of the Guinness PRO14, grabbed the first 15 minutes after the break following an intense period of sustained Ulster pressure.
And Stuart McCloskey powered across a matter of minutes later to round off a flowing move.
Wasps tried to gain a foothold in the contest and stage a late rally but Ulster’s defence is one of the toughest around and they held on to win.
Stockdale said: “It was a great game, Wasps really came and put it to us in the first half and at half time we knew we just had to hold onto the ball and get through our phases.
“It is Champions Cup Rugby so it tough and we are just working hard every week.”
Cardiff Blues produced a superb performance to kick off their Challenge Cup campaign with a bonus-point win against dangerous Top 14 side Lyon.
The Blues were creative going forwards and mean in defence as they secured a 29-19 win.
VIDEO | “We picked up a bonus point win at home to start the campaign. It’s been a pleasing night to back up the bonus point win last week” pic.twitter.com/s41AH4KdXS
— Cardiff Blues (@cardiff_blues) October 13, 2017
George Earle and Tomos Williams both crossed in the first half before Macauley Cook and Rey Lee-Lo added the gloss in the second period.
Virgile Bruni, Pierre-Louis Barassi and Jone Tuva all scored late tries for Lyon to pull them back into contention but the Blues held on for a deserved win.
Elsewhere, Zebre arrived in France full of confidence following a strong start to the Guinness PRO14 campaign but they were soundly beaten 45-10 by Agen.
The hosts made a strong start and scored a try after just seven minutes as Paula Nguamo dotted down before Antoine Miquel added a second mid-way through the first half.
— Zebre Rugby (@ZebreRugby) October 13, 2017
Zebre struggled to make any dent in Agen’s defence and after the break they fell further behind when Johann Saide crossed.
Jacopo Sarto responded to give Zebre hope but Pierre Fouyssac, Mathieu Lamoulie (2) and Alban Conduche all crossed to give Agen a comfortable win.
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie