Gregor Townsend was delighted to see Scotland give what he considered "a true reflection" of their team as they dismantled Samoa at the Rugby World Cup.

Townsend's men had endured an awful start to their campaign in a heavy opening defeat to Ireland, while hosts Japan's shock win against the Irish dealt a further blow to Scotland's hopes of advancing from Pool A.

But where Scotland had been poor from the off against Ireland, they were much improved on Monday and led 20-0 at the break.

Samoa's Ed Fidow then received two yellow cards and was dismissed for conceding a pair of penalty tries to hand Scotland a commanding 34-0 bonus-point win that brings them back into contention.

Townsend accepted responsibility for the Ireland defeat but believed this match gave a greater impression of where Scotland are at.

"That was a true reflection of who we are and what we are capable of and what playing for Scotland means to the players," he said.

"That was a tough challenge to face, knowing that if we underperformed we were out of the World Cup. To see the effort and togetherness was excellent.

"Last week, we missed the beginning of the game and I take responsibility for not preparing the team well enough to start well against Ireland. But that didn't make us a bad team.

"Tonight, it was great to see them get rewards for their effort."

Samoa coach Steve Jackson praised Scotland while insisting his side were not yet "down and out", but much of the post-match conversation focused around the team's discipline.

While Jackson had suggested Samoa felt harshly treated when Rey Lee-Lo and Motu Matu'u were suspended prior to this game, he offered few excuses for Fidow.

"I suppose we can sit back and have a decent look at it overnight," he said. "But would Scotland have scored those tries?

"The first one is a bit difficult. You come in from the side but they were on their way to the try line. For the second one, it's hard when a player dives five metres out from the line.

"So we've just got to make better decisions and try to dislodge the ball a bit better than the way we defended there. But Scotland put themselves in those positions to score those tries. They probably deserved them anyway."

Asked if Samoa's approach could be questioned, Jackson replied: "Every team plays to the letter of the law.

"I'm not going to talk about the two yellow cards previously, but there have obviously been others who have escaped sanctions that we haven't.

"Again, these are decisions that get made by putting yourself in those positions. You're trying to stop two tries and there's going to be risk and reward.

"We don't intentionally go out there to get yellow cards - by no means do we coach or train that."

Scotland kept their hopes of progress from Pool A at the Rugby World Cup alive by beating Samoa 34-0, claiming a bonus point and dealing their opponents a huge blow.

With Japan enjoying a shock victory against Ireland, the host nation put themselves in pole position to advance to the knockout stages at the expense of these two sides.

But Scotland, having lost their opener to the Irish, came up with an impressive response in Kobe on Monday, led by the excellent Finn Russell.

The Racing 92 ace had a hand in two tries in five minutes as Sean Maitland and Greig Laidlaw crossed, before two penalty tries followed courtesy of Ed Fidow, who was dismissed. 

Further victories against Russia and Japan may yet be enough for Gregor Townsend's men in this pool, while Samoa - also on five points - have the Brave Blossoms and Ireland to play.

Scotland started on the front foot and took the opportunity to forge an early lead when Laidlaw dispatched a penalty for the opening points.

A subsequent lack of incision in the Scottish attack and some tricky humid conditions allowed Samoa to secure a foothold in the contest, but a crucial try arrived with half an hour played.

Russell spotted Maitland in the clear on the left wing and executed a delightful crossfield kick for the Saracens star to complete a simple score.

Fly-half Russell was predictably involved again when Scotland added a quick second, combining with Ritchie to send Laidlaw through, bouncing off tackles to land over the line.

Stuart Hogg sent in a superb drop goal and Scotland's lead stood at 20-0 at the break, giving them the second half to chase a bonus point.

Townsend's side were given a helpful boost when the offside Fidow prevented Fraser Brown from scoring, prompting a penalty try and a yellow card.

Farcically, Fidow then slid into Maitland with his knees as he lunged for the line, prompting a second penalty try, a second yellow and a red, gifting Scotland the extra point.

 

Beauden, Scott and Jordie Barrett will become the first trio of brothers to start for New Zealand when the All Blacks face Canada at the Rugby World Cup.

Wednesday's Pool B fixture against Canada at Oita Stadium will see the Barrett siblings become just the second trio of brothers to start in a World Cup match after the Tongan Vunipola brothers in 1995.

All Blacks star Beauden Barrett and brother Scott retain their places in the XV following the world champions' opening victory over South Africa, with head coach Steve Hansen making 11 changes.

New Zealand veteran Sonny Bill Williams is handed his first start of the showpiece tournament, along with Rieko Ioane, while TJ Perenara also slots into the line-up.

"Our aim is to win the next two Pool matches against Canada and Namibia, as well as continuing to grow our game and manage the workload across the group. With two games four days apart, it's obvious that we need to use our whole squad," Hansen said.

"Whilst there's a huge amount of energy and excitement amongst the whole team about what lies ahead, this week there has been a real focus on ourselves and our own standards.

"We've been working hard. We know we have to keep growing our game. We've always been demanding of ourselves when it comes to continued improvement, and that will never change. By doing so, it allows us to have the right attitude, intent and execution.

"When it comes to our preparation, it should never be about who we are playing, but how we are preparing individually and as a team, both mentally and physically. By doing this, it means you always respect your opponent and the jersey."

 

New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett, Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Richie Mo'unga, TJ Perenara; Atu Moli, Liam Coltman, Angus Ta'avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Scott Barrett, Shane Frizell, Matt Todd, Kieran Read.
Replacements: Codie Taylor, Ofa Tuungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Samuel Whitelock, Ardie Savea, Brad Weber, Ryan Crotty, Ben Smith.

Clermont Auvergne returned to winning ways in the Top 14 as Jake McIntyre's fine kicking propelled them to a 32-18 victory at struggling Stade Francais.

The home side took the lead four minutes in, though McIntyre - who tallied 22 points - immediately pulled Clermont level with a penalty, before two more three-pointers in quick succession nosed the visitors further ahead.

Joris Segonds responded with a penalty of his own, though Adrien Lapegue's yellow card swiftly took the wind out of Stade Francais' sails.

European Challenge Cup winners Clermont were reduced to 14 when Sitaleki Timani was sent to the sin bin on the stroke of half-time - Stade Francais taking advantage as Kylan Hamdaoui claimed the game's first try.

But Clermont took control after the restart, Samuel Ezeala and Fritz Lee going over in quick succession, with more accurate kicking from McIntyre ensuring Jonathan Danty's try was no more than a consolation as last season's runners up earned a first win in three matches.

Earlier, Bordeaux-Begles maintained their unbeaten start to the campaign draw with a 17-17 draw at Montpellier.

Martin Devergie's 69th-minute try and a penalty from Anthony Bouthier looked set to claim the points for Montpellier, but second-placed Bordeaux battled back.

Ben Botica's penalty four minutes from time secured a share of the spoils, with Bordeaux heading to league leaders Lyon, who they are two points shy of, next time out.

Warren Gatland realises the importance of Wales following up an impressive victory against Australia by performing well in their remaining Pool D matches.

Wales took control of their Rugby World Cup group by clinging on against the Wallabies and earning a hard-fought 29-25 win.

Gatland's side are expected to challenge for a first title at this tournament, yet the coach is first focused on ensuring they do not "take anyone lightly" prior to the knockout stages.

Wales face Fiji and then Uruguay in a pair of fixtures they will be expected to win.

"It was a tough game [against Australia] and a victory. It's confidence boosting hopefully for the next couple of games," he told a news conference. "We think they're going to be tough.

"Fiji will be hurting and we saw how well they played against Australia in the first half of that first game. We can't take anyone lightly in this group.

"It's important for us that we make sure we prepare in the best way that we possibly can and that we don't take any team or any performance for granted.

"We have to be as clinical as we possibly can be because that's what good teams do. They make sure that they are clinical and they are accurate.

"If we are to be considered a good team, we have got to play well in these next two matches."

Wales were waiting to see how Dan Biggar recovered after a failed head injury assessment, but Gatland was optimistic Liam Williams would be fit after rolling his ankle.

"We'll need to make sure we recover," Gatland said. "We've got nine or 10 days until our next match.

"We'll use that in the best way we possibly can to freshen up the guys and make sure we take a little time. It's nice getting a decent break before our next match against Fiji."

Meanwhile, opposite number Michael Cheika was not receptive to discussing Wales' chances when he was asked for an assessment at his own spiky news conference.

"I don't think that's really for me to talk about, is it? We've played our game against them and move onto the next game," he said.

"They won, now move onto the next game. It's not my place to talk about who's going to win and who's not."

Georgia coach Milton Haig believes he did not put too much pressure on his side by claiming their Rugby World Cup clash with Uruguay was a must-win.

Uruguay were flying high after stunning Fiji, but Georgia came out on top 33-7 in Pool D, claiming their first win of the tournament.

Haig had stated his belief that Georgia, who were defeated by Wales in their opening match, had to triumph against the South Americans if they stood any chance of progressing from a pool which also includes Australia.

The coach, who will leave his post at the end of Georgia's World Cup campaign, acknowledged his comments may have backfired, but was delighted with the reaction of his players.

"It was just stating facts really, we were at a tipping point," Haig told a news conference.

"Obviously if you lose this match everything we'd worked at for so long would have gone down the tubes. Obviously that put pressure on the players, I'm pretty sure it did but that was the reaction I wanted.

"When you're under pressure you either use it as motivation or use it as a hindrance so I wanted to see how the boys would respond and I think they responded pretty well today.

"We're still a work in progress, no doubt about that but after my eight years, I finish at the end of this World Cup, as long as I know I can walk away knowing I've given my all and made my players better then I'll be happy."

Georgia's players were left frustrated after full-time, however, when a Russian song was played in celebration of their victory, with captain Jabba Bregvadze telling reporters: "I want to take this moment to ask the person who played the Russian music, next time don't make the mistake again, please."

Haig added: "They were playing a song after the match that was a Russian song, sung by a Georgian singer but it is a Russian song.

"Again, we want to make it clear that Russia is not Georgia, Georgia is not Russia. We have a different language, different culture, different everything, so World Rugby, please make sure you get these sort of things ironed out for us."

Michael Cheika claimed decisions at the Rugby World Cup are making him "embarrassed" and question his own knowledge of the laws after feeling Australia were let down by officials again.

The Wallabies had seen Reece Hodge suspended for three matches in the build-up to playing Wales, having been cited for a dangerous tackle against Fiji.

That challenge and the subsequent hearing prompted a public debate in which Hodge took issue with those criticising his supposed lack of knowledge of the "high tackle decision making framework".

Australia were then frustrated to see an apparent high tackle from Rhys Patchell on Samu Kerevi that instead saw the Wallabies man penalised for use of the forearm in the carry.

Cheika outlined his issues with the incident in a post-match news conference.

He also claimed "administrators are spooking referees" due to their awarding of suspensions after the fact, while the coach was bemused to hear England's Piers Francis had evaded a ban at his own hearing.

"It was pretty funny because I thought I'd seen that [Patchell] tackle before," Cheika said. "It could have been Reece Hodge...

"I'm not sure. But when our guy makes that tackle and has the high-tackle framework in his head, he gets suspended. When this guy doesn't think about the high-tackle framework, we get penalised.

"You've seen it. As a former player, I'm embarrassed about that."

He added: "I don't know the rules anymore. Honestly, I don't know the rules anymore.

"They all seem spooked. Everyone seems worried about stuff so much. I'm not sure why they're worried - players aren't worried.

"Then it's affecting everything else on the field as well, decisions on all types of crazy stuff. Then I hear that the English guy got off at the suspension thing. Wow.

"I've not said anything there, have I? It just shows if you're not confused, maybe the floodlights going out at the end was a symbol.

"The administrators are spooking referees. The referees are worried about making the wrong decisions and they're becoming ultra cautious about everything, and it's not inviting to the fans.

"Why should we be having booing out there in a game like that with those types of crowds? There shouldn't be people booing - and they're not booing the players either. That shouldn't be happening."

Asked if rugby was becoming "soft", Cheika replied: "It's a tough one, right? Very tough.

"You've got to take care and look after players but not to an extreme where you're just looking after players for doctors and lawyers. Look after players for players."

Australia captain Michael Hooper conceded the Wallabies left themselves with too much to do against Wales after a poor first half on Sunday.

In what will surely be the key fixture in Pool D at the Rugby World Cup, Wales got the better of a strong-finishing Australia 29-25, having led 23-8 at the break.

Tries from Dane Haylett-Petty and Hooper himself set up a tense finish, but the Wallabies could not quite wrestle back control of the match.

Hooper was disappointed but keen to move on quickly, knowing Australia cannot afford to spend too long reflecting on a defeat that likely sends them into the same side of the draw as England and New Zealand.

"It was a close game between two very willing teams and it came down to the wire," he said.

"It was 17-6 [in the second half] - we had the momentum, we just gave away too many in the first half. In particular the back-to-back points really hurt us.

"Congratulations to Wales for holding us out.

"We'll review it now. Recovery is key. We'll review it pretty hard, but in this format of competition, you've got to move on pretty quickly."

Coach Michael Cheika offered a blunt assessment of Australia's defeat, adding: "What went wrong? We just lost by a couple of points - it was a tight contest and that's the way it goes sometimes."

Piers Francis is free to play in England's crunch Rugby World Cup match against Argentina after avoiding a suspension for his high tackle in Thursday's win over the United States.

The centre was cited for a hit on Will Hooley just seven seconds into the Pool C encounter.

Francis admitted committing an act of foul play but denied the incident warranted a red card.

An independent disciplinary committee agreed and decided against imposing a ban despite handing out three-match suspensions to Australia's Reece Hodge and Samoa's Rey Lee-Lo for high tackles earlier in the tournament.

The judgement read: "Having considered all the angles of the incident, together with evidence from the player and submissions from his legal counsel, the panel determined that the act ought to have resulted in a yellow card on-field.

"Since the threshold for upholding a citing is 'red card', the committee did not uphold the citing and the player is free to play again immediately."

In its ruling, the committee referred to Hooley's "sudden change of height" and Francis' attempt to avoid head-high contact as mitigating factors.

The decision comes as a boost to Eddie Jones' side ahead of their clash with the Pumas in Tokyo on Saturday.

England are top of Pool C after two matches, having eased to a 45-7 win over USA following a 32-point tournament-opening victory over Tonga.

Warren Gatland was delighted to see Wales edge past Australia in a bruising Rugby World Cup encounter he acknowledged they might well have lost previously.

The Six Nations Grand Slam champions raced out to a 23-8 half-time lead before Australia built momentum in the second period and set up a nervy finish with tries from Dane Haylett-Petty and Michael Hooper.

But Wales clung on to take a 29-25 victory and seize control of Pool D, potentially avoiding England and New Zealand in the quarter-finals and semis.

Gatland saw this as the type of clash Wales would have come up short in prior to the last 12 months in which they have forged a steely reputation, also beating Australia in a Test last November.

"It was pretty special," he told ITV Sport. "It was a good first half and we hung on in the second half.

"Australia came at us and the boys are pretty sore and battered in the changing rooms. It was a really tough physical game - and those are the ones in the past that we've been losing.

"It was nice to hold on at the end and I thought our bench were fantastic and gave us some real momentum and fresh legs when we needed them."

He added: "We're really pleased to get that win - it takes a little of the pressure off us. Now we're kind of in control of our own destiny in terms of what happens."

Alun Wyn Jones, making a record 130th appearance, praised Wales' character but was slightly concerned by another "tentative" second half.

Wales had similarly built a big lead against Georgia before slowing after the break, their 29-point half-time advantage failing to increase as they won 43-14.

"I'm pretty happy with the character we showed - particularly in the second half," Jones said.

"At times, it did feel a bit like the Georgia game, where we had a great first half and were a bit tentative in the second half. We'll have a look at that, but I'm pleased with the result."

Wales were beaten in three of their four Rugby World Cup warm-up matches, but this, a pool game against Australia, was different.

The expectation had been building for some time, with the winners almost certain to top Pool D and therefore avoid a daunting path through the tournament that would likely include England in the quarter-finals and New Zealand in the semis.

"If Wales can win [against Australia] then I expect them to do good things," former captain Sam Warburton told Omnisport.

And just as at the Six Nations, where they celebrated a stunning Grand Slam triumph, Wales stepped up when it mattered most and just about got the job done against regular World Cup foes.

Wales had been beaten by the Wallabies at three consecutive World Cups but ended that run in battling fashion, having also scraped through in the same fixture last November for their first victory over Australia in almost 10 years.

Warren Gatland's side have become the men for the big occasion over the past 12 months and yet may not now have to play an elite side again until the semi-finals.

Perhaps this result says more about Australia, who attempted a brave fightback but won just four Tests in 2018. Michael Cheika's side did not lack for courage but some basic errors at key times meant their World Cup chances took a major hit.

If Wales are to become just the second team - after England in 2003 - to follow up a Six Nations or Rugby Championship success by becoming world champions, it was vital to end their Australia hoodoo listed below.
 

2007: Wales 20-32 AUSTRALIA (pool stage)

After consecutive quarter-final appearances in the prior two finals, Wales would have expected to progress from their pool in 2007. But they were hit by a setback when Australia tore through them in a brutal first-half showing.

The Welsh were 25-3 down at the break and left to tussle with Fiji for second place. A painful late defeat to the Flying Fijians in their final pool match resulted in an early exit.


2011: Wales 18-21 AUSTRALIA (bronze final)

Wales got revenge over Fiji four years later with a pool-stage thrashing but they could not get one over Australia. They avoided the Wallabies in a run to the semi-finals, but the sides' respective defeats to France and New Zealand set up a bronze final meeting.

The Welsh attack could not fire as it had earlier in the tournament and Australia eased to victory, with Leigh Halfpenny's try rescoring some balance to the scoreline but coming far too late.


2015: AUSTRALIA 15-6 Wales (pool stage)

Neither Australia nor Wales were the big-name casualties in a packed Pool A, as England fell at the first hurdle on home turf, but a Twickenham clash to close their pool campaigns would decide who topped the group.

There was not a single try but Bernard Foley's boot proved the difference as the Wallabies defended doggedly, avoiding South Africa in the last eight and enjoying a run all the way to the final. The Springboks dumped out Wales, who could understandably be sick of the sight of Australia by this stage.


2019: Australia 25-29 WALES (pool stage)

Coming into their second pool match as Six Nations Grand Slam champions and having beaten Australia less than 12 months previously, Wales were finally ready to best the Wallabies on the big stage, with the boots of Dan Biggar and Rhys Patchell this time crucial.

Wales had to withstand second-half pressure but got the job done and might now be able to target a serious push for the title...

Wales took a huge step towards topping Pool D at the Rugby World Cup with a nail-biting 29-25 win over a fast-finishing over Australia in Tokyo.

First-half tries from Hadleigh Parks and the outstanding Gareth Davies made the Wallabies pay for a slow start and set up a result which should see Wales avoid a quarter-final date with England.

Warren Gatland's men did have their 15-point half-time lead trimmed to one during the second period but held firm with help from Rhys Patchell's vital third three-pointer.

The Scarlets fly-half only came on after Dan Biggar was forced off due to concussion, the lone setback for Wales on Alun Wyn Jones' 130th cap, a national record.

Wales made a fast start in their tournament-opening win over Georgia and did the same on Sunday as a Biggar drop goal punished Australia's turnover from the kick-off.

Fly-half Biggar was involved again for the first try of the match when Parkes rose high to claim an intelligent kick and extend the margin to 10 points in almost as many minutes.

Australia's nerves eventually started to settle and the recalled Adam Ashley-Cooper got his team on the board by meeting Bernard Foley's cross-field kick.

Foley missed the conversion but made amends with a three-pointer prior to the half-hour mark.

The influential Biggar failed a head injury assessment following a try-saving tackle on Samu Kerevi, yet his absence did nothing to hinder Wales.

His replacement, Patchell, nailed a pair of penalties and extended the lead to 23-8 at half-time after Davies made a second interception, this time from Will Genia, and raced clean through, albeit from a seemingly offside position.

Patchell's successful drop goal in the early stages of the second half prompted Michael Cheika to swap Foley for Matt Toomua and it was the latter's break that ended with Dane Haylett-Petty diving over on the right.

Australia grabbed the momentum and reduced the deficit to four points 20 minutes from the end, Michael Hooper squirming over following a sustained period of pressure.

Toomua made both conversions and then put the Wallabies within one point with a successful penalty, but Patchell responded to give a tiring Wales breathing space in the closing moments.


Wales shed Wallabies hoodoo

Gatland's men beat the Wallabies 9-6 in Cardiff in November 2018 but had lost the past five World Cup meetings between the nations.

Ending that run and avenging the 15-6 pool match defeat to Australia four years ago could provide the impetus for a run deep into the tournament.


Cheika's big call backfires

Australia coach Cheika turned to experience to combat Wales, making four changes to the backline that helped secure a 39-21 win over Fiji.

He might be regretting that decision. Foley and Genia were drafted into the halves and, for experienced players accustomed to this stage, were prone to basic errors that invited pressure.


What's next?

The Wallabies have work to do ahead of Saturday's game against a Uruguay side boosted by a surprise win over Fiji, who are Wales' next opponents on October 9.

Georgia celebrated their first win at this year's Rugby World Cup with a dominant 33-7 bonus-point victory over Uruguay on Sunday.

Uruguay were flying high after stunning Fiji, but the South Americans wilted in the stifling Kumagaya humidity as Georgia scored five tries to one in the Pool D clash.

Tedo Abzhandadze added four conversions for Georgia in a one-sided contest.

Georgia made 12 changes to their starting XV after being routed by Wales in game one, but it did not hamper the team's rhythm as they outclassed Uruguay, especially in the pack.

Alexander Todua struck first for Georgia in the eighth minute. Two cut-out passes created space for Todua, who eased into the corner after Uruguay's scrum fell apart.

And although Abzhandadze was unable to add the extras, Georgia's energy and strength continued to prove too much for Uruguay, who struggled in the sweltering conditions.

Georgia's power and muscle saw them score their second try on the half hour mark, this time courtesy of Otari Giorgadze. Another dominant scrum paved the way for the flanker to smash his way over the line and Abzhandadze converted for a 12-0 lead.

For all of Georgia's dominance, Uruguay managed to keep themselves in the game with a try against the run of play three minutes later. Quick hands unravelled Georgia, who were helpless as Andres Vilaseca ran through, with Felipe Berchesi adding the extras.

Georgia reasserted their authority two minutes into the second half, restoring their 12-point lead courtesy of Levan Chilachava after strong work again near the try line, with Abzhandadze converting.

Georgia's relentless pressure yielded another five-pointer in the 51st minute – Jaba Bregvadze securing the bonus point, with Abzhandadze's conversion proving successful – and Giorgi Kveseladze got in on the action six minutes later.

 

Georgia giants dominate Uruguay

The imposing Georgians were simply too big and strong for Uruguay. Georgia's pack weighed a combined total of 917kg, almost 100kg heavier than their opponents and it showed as they beat Los Teros for the fourth consecutive time.

Uruguay hit with reality check

The talk of the tournament four days earlier after claiming their first World Cup win in 16 years, it was a game to forget for Uruguay. In what turned out to be a match between men and boys, Uruguay barely had time in possession as they chased shadows and succumbed to Georgia's power. Their woes were compounded by a late red card to Facundo Gattas for a shoulder charge.

What's next?

Georgia will turn their attention to Thursday's clash against Fiji in Higashiosaka, while Uruguay take on the might of Australia two days later in Oita.

Lyon remain unbeaten in the Top 14 after swatting aside struggling Racing 92, though they did concede their first tries of the season.

Noa Nakaitaci, Hamza Kaabeche and Thibaut Regard all crossed for Lyon as they made it five wins from five in a 31-20 victory in Paris.

Juan Imhoff and Brice Dulin became the first players to breach the Lyon line in the 2019-20 campaign but Racing are second bottom with just one win from five after a game that saw Teddy Iribaren and Lyon's Mickael Ivaldi sin-binned after a first-half brawl.

Defending champions Toulouse won for just the second time this term as they held on to see of Pau 24-23, while Bayonne beat La Rochelle by a one-point margin, winning 23-22 despite seeing Census Johnston sent off late in the first half.

Thomas Laranjeira kicked 22 points for Brive as they moved off the bottom with a 39-17 win over Toulon, and Castres claimed a narrow 30-27 victory over Agen.

Reigning Pro14 champions Leinster overcame stern resistance from Benetton Treviso to kick off the new campaign with a 32-27 win.

Dave Kearney's hat-trick helped the Irish province to a bonus-point victory in Italy, despite the visitors having several of their star names away at the Rugby World Cup.

Leinster raced into a 10-0 lead – Ross Byrne kicking a penalty and converting Adam Byrne's try – before Benetton came roaring back.

Derrick Appiah and Tomas Baravalle touched down in quick succession and Ian Keatley proved accurate with the boot to give Benetton the lead.

Kearney then took centre stage, scoring key tries just before the break and five minutes into the second half.

Another rally from the home side, during which Luca Sperandio crossed the whitewash, set up a tense finale but Kearney's converted try and a late penalty ensured a winning start for Leinster.

Munster, losing semi-finalists last season, were 39-9 bonus-point winners over the Dragons, while Cardiff Blues produced a second-half revival to defeat Southern Kings 31-27.

Elsewhere, Scarlets downed Connacht 18-10 and Edinburgh eased past Zebre 50-15.

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