Perpignan rout Scarlets to book home quarter
January 23, 2011
Scarlets wing Sean Lamont is halted by a double tackle
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Perpignan routed the Scarlets 37-5 at the Stade Aime Giral on Sunday to ensure their place in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals and also a possible dream fixture in Barcelona.
The Catalan side breezed past their Welsh rivals to win Pool 5 and will now aim for a high-profile 'home' tie in the last eight, with the Olympic Stadium at Montjuïc reportedly their preferred venue.
Tries from Jerome Porical, Henry Tuilagi, Farid Sid, Florian Cazenave and Gerrie Britz secured the bonus-point required to edge out Leicester Tigers for top spot and the Scarlets must reflect on a lesson learned in the art of blending pace and power at the sharp end of European rugby. The Welsh region's sole points came courtesy of a second-half try by Wales centre Jonathan Davies.
Perpignan struck early to knock the wind from the Scarlets' sails, with a missed lineout from skipper Matthew Rees punished to the full by Porical. Quick ball to the flank gave the fullback a sliver of space and his well-placed kick ahead allowed him to beat Davies for pace and score in the corner. His conversion fell wide and he was again profligate with a penalty attempt on nine minutes after his pack had smashed the Scarlets' eight with a brutish maul.
While Porical was off colour with the boot, Perpignan were anything but with ball in hand. Their second try arrived on 10 minutes and was again the product of a mistake from the visitors as Morgan Stoddart was stripped of the ball inside his 22. Hooker Guilhem Guirado fired a brilliant miss-pass to Sid, whose cut inside allowed Tuilagi to dive over from close range. Porical chimed in with the conversion for a 12-point lead.
Porical missed his third kick of the afternoon on 15 minutes and Stephen Jones was also off target with his first shot at the uprights three minutes later. The Welsh side then launched two enterprising attacks and stretched Perpignan's previously watertight defence, but their efforts could only produce a horribly mishit long-range penalty effort from fullback Rhys Priestland.
As the Scarlets huffed and puffed, Perpignan went back to basics for a majestic third try on 31 minutes. A dominant scrummage laid the platform for the excellent Cazenave to break wide and his surge culminated in a scissors pass to Sid, whose hand-off to the last defender cleared his path to the try-line. Porical converted from under the posts.
The visitors had two prime opportunities in the dying seconds of the half with mauls five metres from the opposition line but again Perpignan produced the goods when it was required, Damien Chouly ripping the ball clear and putting his side on the front-foot for a final salvo. Their first-half dominance was underlined by a successful penalty from Nicolas Laharrague, who secured a 22-0 lead at the break.
There could have been a try each way in the opening moments of the second-half as Perpignan fell asleep at the restart before launching a rasping counter-attack, but the first points went to the Scarlets on 44 minutes after a sustained period of pressure. Surges through the middle of the home defence by Rob McCusker and Lou Reed created space and a well-weighted pass from Jones allowed Gareth Maule to send Davies across from five-metres out.
Jones could not add the extras and Perpignan needed no further invitation to spark into life. Maxime Mermoz was the architect of their bonus-point try on 48 minutes, with the France centre carving through before releasing Cazenave for a deserved score under the posts. Laharrague continued with the kicking duties and easily landed the conversion from in front, adding a penalty four minutes later for good measure.
There was a lengthy delay as Scarlets tight-head Simon Gardiner was treated for a serious-looking knee injury and it also took Perpignan some time to recover their mojo following a raft of replacements. Their pack eventually ground into gear however and replacement flanker Britz powered over at the back of a maul on 68 minutes, the last scoring act in a thrilling performance from the hosts.
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