Perpignan avenged their Heineken Cup defeat from last week against London Irish with a 23-6 win over the Exiles at the Stade Aimé Giral on Saturday.
As the snow fell in the first half neither side managed to take control, settling instead to revert to the boot. Irish arrived looking to make it a fourth straight Heineken Cup win but never looked like doing so.
The home side used their heavy pack to good advantage as they took the fight out of Irish with vast amounts of forward play. Perpignan were visibly frustrated in the first half, failing to pull away from the Exiles. The frustration was there for all to see when captain Perry Freshwater lashed out at Kieran Roche, had the touch judge got a number it would have been a red card.
As it was Freshwater and his troops regained their composure after the break to score twice and seal the game, and in the process leave the pool wide open still.
World Cup-winning full-back Percy Montgomery made an earlier than expected debut for the Catalans side, but his troublesome knee injury meant fly-half Cedric Rosalen took over the goal-kicking duties, and he kept his head to slot 11 crucial points.
Rosalen scored the only points of the opening quarter, slotting a penalty goal after London Irish lock Nick Kennedy was ruled off-side at a ruck.
London Irish full-back Peter Hewat levelled the scores on the half hour after a Perpignan ruck infringement, before Perpignan's England prop Perry Freshwater flicked an elbow at Kieran Roche, forcing the Exiles flanker off the field with a suspected fractured cheekbone.
The two sides emerged from the half-time break locked at 3-3, and Rosalen's second shot at goal gave the Catalans side a hard-earned and probably deserved lead.
Their cause was helped immeasurably in the 47th minute when Exiles centre Delon Armitage produced a reckless high tackle on Adrien Plante.
The Perpignan winger went down heavily and Armitage began trudging to the sideline before referee Carlo Damasco produced the inevitable yellow card.
London Irish shrugged off the one-man disadvantage as Hewat levelled the scores with his second goal.
But Perpignan's superior numbers told as Christoph Manas collected a slip pass from Rosalen to score under the posts.
Rosalen shrugged off two consecutive misses at goal to convert from in front, as the game began to take its toll on its international players.
London Irish skipper Mike Catt went off at half-time, Freshwater lasted barely 10 minutes of the second spell, Montgomery was gone after an hour and Scottish star Chris Cusiter was replaced moments later.
Rosalen took his side two scores clear with a penalty goal in the 72nd minute.
Perpignan's power began to reap dividends as a superbly worked rolling maul powered over the Exiles' try line.
Scotland international Nathan Hines emerged from the heap of bodies with the ball for a try which secured a home victory.
Tries: Manas, Hines
Cons: Rosalen, Porical
Pens: Rosalen 3
For London Irish:
Pens: Hewat 2
Yellow card: Armitage (London Irish - 49th minute)
Perpignan: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Christophe Manas, 13 Federico Martin Aramburu, 12 Jean-Philippe Grandclaude, 11 Adrien Plante, 10 Cédric Rosalen, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Rimas Alvarez Kairelis, 7 Damien Chouly, 6 Gerrie Britz, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Olivier Olibeau, 3 Kisi Pulu, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Perry Freshwater (c).
Replacements: 16 Mickael Ladhuie, 17 Nicolas Mas, 18 Guillaume Vilaceca, 19 Charles Geli, 20 Nicolas Durand, 21 Steve Meyer, 22 Jérôme Porical.
London Irish: 15 Peter Hewat, 14 Tomas De Vedia, 13 Delon Armitage, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Mike Catt, 9 Peter Richards, 8 Phil Murphy, 7 Declan Danaher, 6 Kieran Roche, 5 Bob Casey (c), 4 Nick Kennedy, 3 Richard Skuse, 2 David Paice, 1 Clarke Dermody.
Replacements: 16 Dan Murphy, 17 Stuart Mackie, 18 Tonga Lea'aetoa, 19 Richard Thorpe, 20 Steffon Armitage, 21 Paul Hodgson, 22 Shane Geraghty or Gonzalo Tiesi.
Referee: Carlo Damasco (Italy)
Touch judges: Mauro Dordolo (Ireland), Stefano Penne (Italy)
Assessor: Jim Fleming (Scotland)