Ulster defeated Leicester Tigers 22-16 in a fiercely-contested game at Ravenhill, while Saracens overcame Connacht 23-17 at The Sportsground, and Toulouse ran in five tries in a 38-5 success against Zebre.
Ulster kicked off their European Cup campaign with a hard-fought win over Leicester Tigers. Logovii Mulipola crashed over inside six minutes at a sold-out Ravenhill but Ulster battled back. Tommy Bowe hit back and Paddy Jackson booted Ulster out of reach as the hosts took control of the second-half. The victory sees Ulster climb straight to the top of Pool Five, while the English champions were able to pick up a losing bonus-point.
Ulster almost scored inside two minutes as the encounter began at a ferocious pace. After a sublime counterattack, the ball was spread wide but Bowe was unable to find Darren Cave. And within minutes Leicester went in front. A Toby Flood break laid the foundations and Dan Bowden found Mulipola with a sublime pass. Flood converted but Ulster battled back and levelled the scores after Bowe leapt about Niall Morris to collect Paddy Jackson’s cross-kick with the fly-half converting.
Flood responded once more but Jackson nailed a pair of penalties to hand the hosts a 13-10 half-time lead. Within three minutes of the restart Jackson intercepted Tom Young’s pass and raced the length of the pitch but Romain Poite adjudged the fly-half to be offside and called play back. Flood drew level and Ulster were denied once more when they had a try ruled out on 48 minutes.
Luke Marshall released Payne superbly and he sent Cave over but the penultimate pass was ruled forward by the TMO. But Ulster took control of the encounter and Jackson booted the hosts out of reach. Toby Flood missed a penalty on his own and Owen Williams struck the uprights with a drop-goal but the Welsh flyhalf salvaged a losing bonus-point at the death.
* Meanwhile Toulouse began their quest for a fifth European Cup crown with a 38-5 bonus-point win over Zebre in Pool Three.
Europe’s most successful side picked up maximum points at the Stade Ernest Wallon as they crossed for six tries in a straightforward start to their latest continental challenge.
* Saracens also got their European cup campaign off to a solid start after a hard earned 23-17 away win in France against Connacht.
The win came compliments of two-second half penalties from England fly half Owen Farrell.