Stunning Scarlets seal opening win
October 9, 2010
Perpignan centre Davi Marty is halted by the Scarlets' defence
© Getty Images
Fly-half Stephen Jones bagged a personal haul of 28 points as the Scarlets opened their Heineken Cup campaign with a 43-34 bonus point win over Pool 5 rivals Perpignan at Parc y Scarlets.
The hosts were outscored by five tries to four in an enthralling and open contest but Jones' five penalties, four conversions and second-half try proved crucial. Two tries from fullback Rhys Priestland late in the opening period plus 16 points from Jones put the hosts 26-15 up at the break. Jean-Philippe Grandclaude and Julien Candelon went over for the French side with Jerome Porical landing a conversion and a penalty.
The Scarlets wrapped up a bonus point as Regan King and Jones went over to complete a spell where the hosts racked up four tries in a total of 16 minutes either side of the break. Jones then added another penalty before Adrien Plante and Ovidiu Tonita gave Perpignan a bonus point, with Damien Chouly also crossing in the dying moments.
The Scarlets made a vibrant start as scrum-half Martyn Roberts got his hand through the tackle to feed captain Matthew Rees, who in turn passed to flanker Rob McCusker as they burst into the Perpignan 22. McCusker was hauled down but the French side's scramble defence cynically infringed to allow Jones to give his side a third-minute lead.
Perpignan hit back as Gavin Hume's grubber was gathered by Plante and moved on to Grandclaude, who touched down two phases later after a lovely miss pass from centre partner David Marty, although Porical made a mess of the conversion. A 12th-minute penalty for offside allowed Jones to put the Scarlets back in front but the lead barely lasted three minutes before the Catalan side's second try arrived in controversial fashion.
Scrum-half Florian Cazenave stole the ball from an apparently offside position and launched a flowing counter-attack. Flanker Bertrand Guiry floated the ball out to wing Candelon, who grubbered past Priestland to score. Porical's conversion made it 12-6, although Jones replied with his third penalty before the end of the first quarter.
Perpignan were being dogged by ill-discipline, conceding a stream of needless penalties, and the Scarlets were level when Jones kicked his fourth penalty in the 28th minute after Porical had seen yellow for foolishly kicking Josh Turnbull, and Jones was off target moments later with another penalty attempt.
But the home side's first try finally came after a purposeful counter from Sean Lamont. Turnbull took the ball on and when it was moved wide Regan King put Priestland over for a score converted by Jones. Porical returned but there was nothing the visitors could do to prevent the Scarlets producing an outstanding score.
Morgan Stoddart went racing into space and out-the-back-door passes from the winger and King saw Gareth Maule put Priestland in at the corner. Jones added the extras from out wide for a 26-12 lead. Porical kicked a penalty to cut the gap on the stroke of half-time to end an exhilarating 40 minutes.
The Scarlets effectively killed the game off with two tries within seven minutes of the resumption. A mistake in the Perpignan midfield saw King hack ahead and when Candelon failed to gather the ball under pressure from Maule the Kiwi centre strolled over under the posts for a converted try.
Another then followed after some lovely inter-passing between backs and forwards saw skipper Rees send Jones in for his 50th try for Llanelli and the Scarlets to seal the bonus point. The fly-half dusted himself off to add the extras and establish an imposing 40-15 lead.
Perpignan enjoyed a decent period of pressure and were rewarded when Plante strode through a chasm in the home defence to cross, with Porical again on target with the conversion. The Scarlets heaped more pressure on themselves as replacement Jonny Fa'amatuainu was sin-binned for an illegal hit on Plante, and his absence helped the French side rumble over for their own bonus-point try courtesy of replacement Tonita.
Chouly added their fifth try with time running out as the Catalan outfit finished by far the stronger side, and Porical then missed with a last-gasp long-range penalty which would have given his side a second bonus point.
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