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Strong start for Madigan and Bristol as Parata scores on Pirates debut

Gareth Steenson and Ian Whitten helped Exeter to begin their season with a win.

THE ENGLISH PREMIERSHIP and Championship seasons kicked off over the weekend with plenty of Irish involvement, while the Top 14 and Pro D2 featured lots of Irish players and coaches as they continued.

Here, we round-up the Irish Abroad’s involvement in all four leagues, as well as the Guinness Pro14, in recent days.

Gallagher Premiership 

Pat Lam’s Bristol made a superb start to life in the English top flight with a 17-10 win over Bath on Friday night in front of a crowd of 26,000 at Ashton Gate.

Bristol Bears v Bath Rugby - Gallagher Premiership - Ashton Gate Stadium Madigan kicked four penalties for Bristol. Source: David Davies

Ireland international Ian Madigan slotted four penalties as he played the full game for Bristol, for whom former Connacht man Conor McPhillips is an assistant coach to Lam.

It was a fine evening for defence coach John Muldoon too as Bristol limited Bath – whose attack coach is Girvan Dempsey - to 10 points.

Exeter are top of the table after hammering Matt O’Connor’s Leicester Tigers 40-6 on Saturday.

Gareth Steenson converted five of the Chiefs’ six tries from out-half, while outside centre Ian Whitten scored a try off a beautiful Henry Slade offload [below]. For Leicester, where Geordan Murphy is an assistant coach, it was a worrying start to the season.

Mark McCall‘s Saracens also notched a bonus-point win to kick off their title defence, overcoming a determined effort from Newcastle yesterday to emerge with a 32-21 victory.

Whitten Ian Whitten scored for Exeter.

Click here if you cannot view the clip above

Former Ireland U20 hooker George McGuigan started in the number two shirt for the defeated Falcons.

Harlequins, who have a new boss in Paul Gustard, started their season with a bonus-point 51-23 success against Sale, with former Ireland U18 scrum-half Charlie Mulchrone playing the closing 10 minutes off the bench for Quins.

Director of rugby David Humphreys would have enjoyed watching Gloucester open their campaign with a 27-16 victory over Northampton that featured a sublime Danny Cipriani pass for one of their two tries.

Ex-Ireland U20 captain Niall Annett made his first Premiership appearance since 2016 in Worcester’s 21-20 defeat at home to Wasps, getting through 50 minutes on his return as he started alongside a fellow former Ulsterman in loosehead Callum Black.

Worcester’s attack coach, Neil Doak, will push his side to build on their two-try showing, while Wasps’ defence coach, Ian Costello, will be keen to ensure Dai Young’s team continue their winning momentum next weekend at home to Exeter.

Greene King IPA Championship 

Cornish Pirates are top of England’s second-tier league after a bonus-point 31-24 victory over Doncaster Knights yesterday.

Rory Parata tackled by Huw Jones Former Connacht and Zebre back Rory Parata scored for the Pirates. Source: Federico Matteucci/INPHO

Pirates had an all-Irish centre pairing of ex-Ulsterman Callum Patterson and former Connacht back Rory Parata, with Patterson key in creating a try for Parata just before half-time.

At number eight on the defeated Doncaster team was Willie Ryan, who joined from Ealing Trailfinders over the summer.

Declan Kidney and Les Kiss‘ London Irish got their bid to bounce straight back into the Premiership off to a fine start with a 20-7 win away to fellow promotion contenders Ealing on Saturday.

Ex-Leinster loosehead Jack O’Connell made his Championship debut for Ealing, as did former Munster man David Johnston, who started at fullback. One-time Leinster lock Tom Denton also made his first competitive appearance for the club after joining from Gloucester.

Former Ireland U20 international loosehead Des Merrey was on the bench as Hartpury College began their campaign with a 16-5 win over Yorkshire Carnegie.

Newly-promoted Coventry made an excellent start to life in the Championship as they beat Jersey Reds 20-15.

David Johnston Former Garryowen man David Johnston is now with Ealing. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Second row Jerry Sexton, openside Conor Joyce and inside centre Mark Best were all in the beaten Jersey team, while former Ulster out-half Brett Herron kicked a conversion and a penalty for the Reds.

Craig Trenier, who had a spell with Ulster after coming through at Terenure, started at tighthead prop in Richmond’s 24-19 victory over London Scottish.

Former Ireland U20 wing Charlie Ingall scored an excellent try for the losing team, chipping ahead down his right wing and regathering on the bounce five metres out to dot down.

Bedford Blues had a strong start to the season, with second row Mark Flanagan and former Leinster loosehead Sean McCarthy starting in their 27-21 win away to Nottingham.

The Nottingham team included ex-Leinster tighthead Oisin Heffernan, former Connacht lock Danny Qualter, and the ex-Munster pair of number eight Shane Buckley and fullback Sean Scanlon.

James Lennon with Caelan Dorris Irish-qualified scrum-half James Lennon came off the Bedford bench. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Former Munster prop Rory Burke came off the bench for them, while scrum-half James Lennon - who is Irish-qualified and spent time with Munster two seasons ago – did the same for Bedford.

Guinness Pro14

Michael Bradley‘s Zebre opened their season with a bonus-point win, running in four tries as they beat the Southern Kings 32-16.

The Ospreys, where former Ulster forwards coach Allen Clarke is now in charge, also began the season with a victory, George North scoring two tries on his debut as they overcame Edinburgh on a 17-13 scoreline.

Bernard Jackman‘s Dragons had a disappointing start to their campaign with a 21-17 defeat at home to Benetton and will hope to fare better when the Kings visit this weekend.

Top 14

Pau got their first win of the season on the second weekend of Top 14 action, with former Munster men Sean Dougall, Dave Foley and Paddy Butler all in the starting team as they overcome Toulon on a 20-10 scoreline.

Dougall Sean Dougall scored a try for Pau.

Click here if you cannot view the clip above

Dougall scored Pau’s only try of the game with a pick-and-go from close-range [above], while Foley played 57 minutes in the second row and Butler completed the full game in the number eight shirt.

It was a good weekend for Agen and their starting Irish tighthead Dave Ryan too, as they beat Perpignan 25-23 at home, Paddy Jackson kicking two conversions and three penalties for the beaten team.

Stade Français, who count Mike Prendergast and Paul O’Connell among their assistant coaches, made it two wins from two with a 20-8 victory over Bordeaux.

Simon Zebo grabbed his first Top 14 try for Racing 92 but it was a miserable evening for the club yesterday as they lost 40-17 at home to the impressive Clermont. 

Donnacha Ryan was in the second row for Racing and made a massive hit on Clermont prop Loni Uhila but the Parisians will need to be much better to compete for the title this season.

Pro D2

Ex-Ireland and Ulster lock Dan Tuohy helped Vannes to their first win of the season on Friday, starting in the second row as they beat Nevers 24-13, with former Shannon man Frank Bradshaw-Ryan coming off the bench for Nevers.

Rugby Union - Friendly - Ireland v Barbarians - Thomond Park Dan Tuohy is now playing with Vannes. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan

Jeremy Davidson‘s Brive team drew 33-33 away to Biarittz on Thursday evening, with Stuart Olding moving from inside centre to out-half and earning a place in Midi Olympique’s team of the week for the second time in three games.

Ex-Munster lock John Madigan was back in Massy’s second row as they lost 21-12 at home to promotion contenders Bayonne. 

Another Munster man, Steven McMahon, was at fullback for Carcasonne as they came up just short away to Aurillac, losing 19-16.

Former Leinster and Connacht tighthead Jamie Hagan, capped once by Ireland, was back in Béziers’ starting side after recovering from a neck injury that ended his 2017/18 season, but couldn’t help them to avoid a 35-14 defeat to league leaders Mont-de-Marsan.

Jamie Hagan Ex-Melbourne Rebels prop Jamie Hagan is fit again at Béziers. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Meanwhile, the start of the Fédérale 1 season saw Narbonne hammering Cédet 61-10, with former Munster academy out-half Tomás Quinlan making his debut off the bench.

Mitre 10 Cup

North Harbour, where Ireland U20s coach Noel McNamara is on a three-month placement, suffered their first defeat of the season as they came up short against the Tasman Makos on a 32-20 scoreline.

National Rugby Championship

New head coach Eoin Toolan tasted defeat in his first game in charge of the Melbourne Rising, as they lost 40-17 away to the Fijian Drua.

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Murray Kinsella

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