Mark Bennett scored a handsome hat-trick of tries while Fraser McKenzie, Nic Groom, Matt Scott and Jamie Farndale all added further scores as the Scottish team avoided an ‘arm wrestle’ against their Italian opponents.
But Cockerill was keen to stress there is room for improvement.
“It was still a bit clunky at times – you don’t want to let teams back into games and you don’t want to give away soft points, which we did on a couple of occasions, but overall it was a really good start for us,” he said.
“We know there are bigger days to come and harder teams to play, but if you don’t execute like we did, you can end up in an arm-wrestle you don’t want, and thankfully we didn’t get to that point.”
In Bloemfontein, meanwhile, Toyota Cheetahs also rammed home seven tries in a hugely impressive victory over last season’s beaten finalists Glasgow Warriors.
The home team gets their first win of the season in their first match!
— Toyota Cheetahs (@CheetahsRugby) September 27, 2019
The Cheetahs, buoyed by their recent Currie Cup triumph, were in brilliant form with two tries each for Rhyno Smith, Joseph Dweba and Junior Pokomela while talisman Ruan Pienaar also got in on the action and interim coach Franco Smith was quick to praise their much-improve defence.
“We are happy with our defence,” Smith said.
“We have been defending well, but we still have had soft moments, even in the Currie Cup.
“From January our emphasis has moved a little more towards defence. Our strategy and how we want to defend is coming together.”
Leinster also impressed on the opening weekend, the defending Guinness PRO14 champions holding off a spirited Benetton effort in Treviso.
Dave Kearney scored a hat-trick and Adam Byrne also dotted down as Leo Cullen’s side fought off a tough challenge at Stadio Comunale di Monigo, a result which pleased fly-half Ross Byrne given they had to shake off some early season ring rust.
“It’s an incredibly proud day for our family.” 💙👊
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) September 28, 2019
“It was a very tough game,” he said.
“It’s a very tough place to come. There was a bit of rustiness with it being the first game out but we did well to grind out the win in the end.”
Fellow Irish province Ulster got their season underway comfortably on Friday night as they eased past Ospreys with Craig Gilroy scoring twice on his return from long-term injury and Greg Jones also at the double.
“It’s a great start, we’re delighted,” Gilroy said.
“It’s been a long pre-season so we’re delighted to get started tonight and come away with a bonus point win.
“It was great to dot down, it’s always a bonus but I think our team performance really showed. We have been working so hard as a group together over pre-season.”
In Port Elizabeth, Harri Millard’s late try inspired Cardiff Blues to victory over Isuzu Southern Kings and Blues fly-half Jarrod Evans was delighted with the clinical edge his side showed in the win.
— Cardiff Blues (@cardiff_blues) September 29, 2019
“One of the pleasing things was how clinical we were inside their 22 and that was our biggest work on from last season,” Evans said.
“Our percentages coming away from the 22 wasn’t great but we did that pretty well. We worked our tries well and the backs chose their moments well.”
It was a case of polar opposites for the Dragons as new boss Dean Ryan criticised his side’s ability to turn pressure into points following their heavy defeat to Munster.
“We got opportunities, but we didn’t take them and I have seen enough games at Munster to know that you don’t get many opportunities,” Ryan said.
“If you don’t take them then you are going to spend a long time trying to get back into the game.”
Finally, Josh Macleod praised Scarlets’ power game after they gave Brad Mooar his first Guinness PRO14 victory with first-half tries from Steff Evans and Paul Asquith proving the difference against Connacht in the battle of two former champions.
Seren y Gêm ⭐️
— Scarlets Rugby (@scarlets_rugby) 28 September 2019
“We won it in the first half,” Macleod said.
“Our real focus was on physicality and to really shut them off and our work really showed, it paid off with the result.”
Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20 as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!
General sale tickets are available from http://bit.ly/PRO14Cardiff2020 and prices start at just £13 for concessions and £26 for adults (subject to booking fees), that’s a 15% early bird discount. Family ticket (2 adults / 2 children) prices begin at £64 and fans are encouraged to buy early to get the best value tickets.