The Heineken Cup has always been fiercely contested but the evidence is there after a record breaking opening round to the 16th campaign to suggest the tournament is getting tighter and tighter.
Seven of the 12 Round 1 games ended within the seven point margin needed for a losing bonus point – a record high for the competition since bonus points were first introduced in the 2003/04 season.
In the previous 42 Pool rounds over the last seven seasons the most losing bonus points secured in a round were six on four occasions (Rd2 09/10; Rds 4 & 6 08/09; Rd 3 04/05).
But not only were there a record seven matches that saw the losers taking something out of the game, but the points difference between the teams in those matches was a mere 24. Two games were won by a single point and another by two.
Across the 12 games over the opening weekend there was only a points difference of 96 between the winning and losing teams, an average gap of only eight points per match.
The losing bonus points in Round 1 were registered in the following matches:
Northampton Saints 18-14 Castres Olympique; Toulon 19-14 Ospreys; Benetton Treviso 29-34 Leicester Tigers; Cardiff Blues 18-17 Edinburgh; London Irish 23-17 Munster Bath 11-12 Biarritz Olympique and Toulouse 18-16 London Wasps. In addition, Perpignan picked up a try bonus in their 43-34 defeat at the Scarlets.