Leo Cullen’s men were made to work hard for their 24-17 triumph over Top 14 outfit Montpellier as they gained a bonus point victory at the RDS Arena.
Meanwhile Edinburgh’s 37-14 victory over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium was their fourth Challenge Cup win in a row against Aviva Premiership opponents.
Four other Guinness PRO14 also got their campaigns off and running with mixed results as Ospreys and Scarlets prepare to make their European bows on Sunday.
Leinster battle past Montpellier
It was a nervous afternoon for the three-time European title winners in Dublin as they had to show all their class to overcome Montpellier.
Two first half tries from Joey Carbery, Leinster’s 400th in the European Cup, and Josh van der Flier gave the hosts some breathing space.
Centre Robbie Henshaw added another score but Top 14’s leading try scorer Nemani Nadolo thundered home a brace to set up a tense finale.
📸 Check out photos from the bonus point win over Montpellier!
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) October 14, 2017
But winger Barry Daly ensured that wouldn’t be the case as he took Carbery’s pass beautifully and forces his way over on the left.
Head coach Leo Cullen said: “I feel very relieved. Exhausted. It was pretty stressful watching at times, but we’re reasonably pleased with the overall outcome,” said Cullen.
“It wasn’t pretty at times, but we knew it was going to be a huge challenge. For a lot of young guys to step in, I thought they showed a lot of bravery, courage against some very big, physical individuals. They have a lot of power and quality throughout their team. We got a win and we can move on now.”
Connacht pass French test
Connacht rested first-choice centre Bundee Aki for their Challenge Cup clash at Oyonnax but Kieran Keane’s side still came away with the points.
— Connacht Rugby (@connachtrugby) October 14, 2017
It took just three minutes for the visitors to register their first score after a great break from Deegan and Healy allowed the former to crash over before Cian Kelleher did the same seven minutes later.
The French outfit came back late in the first half with two tries but Healy’s second try at the start of the second period ensured it’s one win from one for Connacht.
Glasgow lose heavyweight clash
Last season’s Aviva Premiership Rugby champions up against the form side in Guinness PRO14 was the heavyweight clash of Saturday as Exeter Chiefs entertained Glasgow Warriors.
It was a positive start for the Warriors after Finn Russell kicked cross field to Tommy Seymour who climbed highest to collect and dot down.
But the Chiefs came roaring back with tries from Jonny Hill and Mitch Lees to head in four points up at the interval.
A Lee Jones try in the second half helped bring the deficit to two points but they couldn’t a way through and Sam Simmonds’ late score confirmed the Warriors first defeat of the season
Edinburgh run riot at London Irish
Edinburgh Rugby gave their season a confidence boost as they triumphed over London Irish.
Junior Rasolea scored twice in the first half as the Scottish side ran in five tries in a scintillating performance against the newly-promoted Aviva Premiership outfit.
— Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (@Hidalgoclyne) October 14, 2017
A delighted Edinburgh head coach, Richard Cockerill, said: “To come away from home and get a better performance with ball in hand was important.
“We kept ourselves in the game and we defended very well when we needed to which was really pleasing.
“I was really pleased with the application of the players and their ambition to play exciting rugby.”
Dragons edged out in thriller
There was to be no victory for the Dragons, however, as Newcastle Falcons secured a bonus-point win against the Welsh side.
After being 15-6 down at the break, tries from Rynard Landman and Ashton Hewitt gave the visitors a 20-15 lead.
But debutant Gary Graham and Falcons’ skipper Mark Wilson got the hosts over the line at Kingston Park.
Yet there are plenty of positives for the Welsh side to take away from their trip to the Tyneside.
Benetton Rugby couldn’t keep up their promising start to the season as they were ruthlessly undone by Bath Rugby at The Rec.
Tries either side of half time from Mercer and Aled Brew were more than enough to see off a changed Benetton line-up.
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