Injury-hit Leinster coped manfully without a host of key names to open their European Champions Cup season with a 24-17 bonus-point victory at home to Montpellier.
Beaten semi-finalists at the hands of Clermont Auvergne in April, Leinster will be a force to be reckoned with once more in 2017-18 if this success, achieved despite the absence of several pivotal players, is anything to go by.
Former Wallabies flanker Scott Fardy withdrew on Saturday due to personal reasons, adding to a lengthy list of unavailable stars that already included injured Ireland quartet Jonathan Sexton, Rob Kearney, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip.
These sides met in the pool stages last season, with Leinster enjoying a 57-3 rout in the corresponding fixture, but this encounter at the RDS Arena proved a much more evenly-matched affair.
Joey Carbery gave Leinster the lead – with the club’s 400th Champions Cup try – before Josh van der Flier was awarded a second by the TMO in the 25th minute.
Nemani Nadolo made it 12-7 shortly before the interval, diving over after the ball shot out of a scrum, and during the break there was a celebratory moment as one Leinster fan proposed to his partner and received the answer he was hoping for.
At half-time, on the big screen in the RDS, William asked Emma to marry him.
And she said… yes!
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) October 14, 2017
Following those heartening scenes, Leinster swiftly reasserted themselves in the second period through Robbie Henshaw’s try.
An excellent Montpellier move led to Nadolo’s second but Leinster soon secured their bonus point as Barry Daly crossed on his European debut for the club. Ruan Pienaar’s penalty and Adam Byrne’s yellow for an intentional knock-on made for a nervy finish, but Leinster held on.
— nemzy (@nemani_nadolo) October 14, 2017
The other match in Pool 3 saw Premiership champions Exeter Chiefs need a late Sam Simmonds try to secure a 24-15 win over Glasgow Warriors in a gripping encounter at Sandy Park, while Racing 92 just edged out Leicester Tigers 22-18 at Stade Yves Du Manoir.
There was a moment of history as La Rochelle claimed their first Champions Cup win, a 34-27 success at Harlequins, while Bath marked their return to Europe’s top table by shutting out Benetton Treviso 23-0 at The Rec.
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.