Kilkenny drew first blood in the Allianz Hurling League with an eight-point defeat of great rivals Tipperary at Nowlan Park.
Meeting for the first time since the Cats’ 2011 All-Ireland win, the hosts charged into an early lead with Richie Power netting a 12th minute penalty.
TJ Reid impressed up front as the hosts built a 1-10 to 0-08 interval lead, while free-taker Pa Bourke led Tipp’s scoring with 0-05.
Declan Ryan’s side soon reduced the arrears to three points, but Eoin Larkin, who grabbed a 41st minute goal, and top scorer Power (1-11) steered Kilkenny home.
Strong in the air and fast on their feet, the Cats were just too sharp for the Munster men this afternoon with Power producing a man-of-the-match performance full of accurate shooting and clever interplay.
Tipp manager Ryan handed league debuts to defender Donagh Maher, a brother of Shane Maher, and wing forward Adrian Ryan, who is a first cousin of Gearoid Ryan.
The Cats started the game with eight players who lined out for last September’s All-Ireland decider, while Kilkenny had 12 back on board - their three absentees being the retired Eddie Brennan and injured duo Henry Shefflin and Richie Hogan.
Colin Fennelly won a first minute free which Power pointed and in a bright opening spell, Noel McGrath levelled with a lovely score from the right.
Brendan Cummins, a late inclusion for the visitors, did well to parry Reid’s shot from close range, but Power pointed the resulting ‘65’.
Reid’s rousing midfield catch and delivery in set up Matthew Ruth for Kilkenny’s third point and Michael Rice, in acres of space, soon added a fourth.
Reid continued to catch the eye, soaring high to claim a David Herity puck-out and driving forward for a deserved first point.
Kilkenny moved 1-05 to 0-01 ahead after just 12 minutes. Power gathered a ball in from the left sideline and was fouled by Conor O’Mahony for a harshly-awarded penalty which he smashed home himself.
Tipperary had an immediate goal chance at the other end but Noel McGrath was closed down by JJ Delaney and Brian Hogan and eventually kicked the ball wide.
Placed balls from O’Mahony and Pa Bourke got wind-backed Tipp into the game, and Gearoid Ryan teed up McGrath for his second point from play.
The Premier County outfit continued to improve with Bourke converting a 21st minute free. But Power ended a barren spell for the Cats with a close range free.
Approaching the half hour Bourke and Rice swapped further scores, the latter benefiting from a superb flicked pass from Ruth.
Pointed frees from Power and Bourke dominated the remainder of the first half, the former tallying up 1-05 over the opening 35 minutes.
However, the home supporters were treated to a smashing late score from play when great interplay between Brian Hogan, Power and Reid set up Larkin for a crisp strike over the bar.
Three minutes into the second half, McGrath landed his third point from play after a short free was played into him.
Tipp were chipping away at Kilkenny’s advantage but just when Bourke had the deficit down to three again, Larkin grabbed his side’s second goal.
Reid plucked another puck-out down from the sky and passed for Larkin to drive through the heart of the Tipp defence.
With Cummins and the covering Donagh Maher unable to stop him, Larkin did well to stay on his feet and scoop the ball into an empty net.
Power added two more frees over the next four minutes, moving the Cats 2-12 to 0-10 clear and the two league points were within their grasp.
Colin Fennelly had two opportunities to find the net for Kilkenny but he was hooked for the first, and Donagh Maher also did well to block a goal-bound effort.
Two more frees from Power and an excellent Larkin point from 50 metres cancelled out a Brendan Maher score at the other end.
Kilkenny goalkeeper David Herity will have been pleased to keep a clean sheet. John O’Brien soon have netted in the 56th minute after a lovely set-up by Brian O’Meara who fed a pass through off his knees.
Despite the Cats’ defence was caught off guard for once, O’Brien’s angled shot flew wide of the far post and as the intensity dropped, Kilkenny’s opening Division 1A victory was a certainty.
Tipp substitutes Eoin Kelly and Shane Bourke added a late collection of points, with the latter landing three well-taken scores from play.
Fellow substitute James Woodlock raided forward to set up Bourke’s second point as the gap was cut to 2-15 to 0-13. Bourke added a third from a tight angle, but Power fittingly closed out the scoring with two more frees.
Scorers - Kilkenny: R Power 1-11 (1-00 pen, 0-10f, 0-01 ‘65’), E Larkin 1-02, M Rice 0-02, M Ruth, TJ Reid 0-01 each
Tipperary: P Bourke 0-06 (0-05f, 0-01 ‘65’), N McGrath, S Bourke 0-03 each, C O’Mahony (0-01f), B Maher, E Kelly 0-01 each
KILKENNY: David Herity; Jackie Tyrrell, JJ Delaney, Noel Hickey; Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, Paul Murphy; Paddy Hogan, Michael Fennelly; TJ Reid, Michael Rice, Eoin Larkin (capt); Colin Fennelly, Richie Power, Matthew Ruth.
Subs used: Conor Fogarty for Delaney (57 mins), John Mulhall for C Fennelly (63), Richie Doyle for P Hogan (66).
TIPPERARY: Brendan Cummins; Donagh Maher, Paul Curran (capt), Michael Cahill; Shane Maher, Conor O’Mahony, Padraic Maher; Brendan Maher, David Young; Gearoid Ryan, Noel McGrath, Adrian Ryan; Pa Bourke, Brian O’Meara, John O’Brien.
Subs used: James Woodlock for B Maher (17-18 mins, blood sub), Shane Bourke for A Ryan (half-time), Eoin Kelly for G Ryan (49), James Woodlock for O’Brien (57), John O’Keeffe for Curran (60), Shane McGrath for P Bourke (64).
Referee: Michael Wadding (Waterford)