The Guinness PRO14 season is underway, and already the heavy New Zealand influence is evident.
Prop Michael Bent started for Leinster, who are starting rugby life without the talismanic Isa Nacewa, now back in New Zealand and doing some TV work.
Former Counties Manukau Steelers midfielder Rey Lee-Lo scored a brace for Cardiff, whose numbers also featured Willis Halaholo and Nick Williams.
New Edinburgh signing and former Auckland captain Simon Hickey slotted two penalty goals for his new employers – while Kilted Kiwi Simon Berghan packed down at tighthead prop – but it was not sufficient as Ospreys won 17-13 at home.
No 8 Jim Tuivaiti scored a try as Zebre defeated the Southern Kings 32-16. Brandon Nansen’s Dragons went down 17-21 at home to a Treviso unit that included Jayden Hayward, Monty Ioane, Hame Faiva, captain Dean Budd and former King Country and Waikato wing Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara.
Harlequins, with no Kiwis in the ranks, despite their association with New Zealand Rugby, hammered Sale Sharks 51-23. Denny Solomona and Bryn Evans turned out for the Sharks.
Nathan Hughes’ Wasps edged Bryce Heem’s Worcester 21-20.
Jason Woodward and Josh Hohneck enjoyed Gloucester’s 27-16 win over Northampton in the Saints’ first proper game under new coach Chris Boyd. Piers Francis scored a try for the Saints, who also fielded Ahsee Tuala, Nafi Tuitavake, Ben Franks, Teimana Harrison, Dylan Hartley and Ken Pisi.
Alapati Leiua scored a key try for the victors, who weathered a yellow card to No 12 Tusi Pisi. Others of New Zealand origin included John Afoa, Chris Vui, Steven Luatua, Joe Latta and Jack Lam. Bath fielded Jackson Willison, transferred from Worcester, and replacement Anthony Perenise.
Sean Maitland’s Saracens opened their Premiership defence with a 32-21 win at Newcastle. Tane Takalua, Logovi’i Mulipola and Tevita Cavubati appeared for the Falcons.
There were again some topsy-turvy results in the French Top 14. Isaia Toeava, Loni Uhila and Fritz Lee all tasted victory in Paris as Clermont beat Racing-Metro 40-17. Turning out for the latter were Ole Avei, Ben Tameifuna, Ben Volavola and Joe Rokocoko.
Both Lolagi Visinia and Alaska Taufa received yellow cards for Grenoble, while Leva Fifita and Halani Aulika also featured.
Defending champs Castres, with David Smith and Alex Tulou in the ranks, beat Lyon 19-16, who had Charlie Ngatai, Rudi Wulf and Toby Arnold at 12-13-14.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Victor Vito, Hikairo Forbes and Uini Atonio were all on the wrong end of a 36-14 reverse for La Rochelle at Montpellier.
Ziggy Fisi’ihoi’s Stade Francais defeated Luke Braid’s Bordeaux-Begles 20-8, while George Tilsley came off the pine for the latter.
Four penalty goals to Colin Slade and one to Tom Taylor helped Pau to a 20-10 home win over Toulon. Benson Stanley, who turns 34 next week, started at No 13 for Pau.
Liam Messam, in the No 7 jersey, and Julian Savea made their Toulon debuts, having gained a taste of the pre-game show at Mayol last weekend. Malakai Fekitoa was on the left wing.
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