Rugby Union: Bellot blows Llanelli away

Perpignan 34 Llanelli 17
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The Independent Online
IT WAS an ill wind that blew through Perpignan for Llanelli as the Scarlets were dumped out of the European Cup by one of the tournament favourites. With La Tramontane gusting at their backs in the first half, Llanelli stayed in touch with their French hosts and trailed by just a single point, 18-17, at the interval.

However, the introduction of the fly-half Benoit Bellot, as well as playing into the wind after the break, proved too much as Perpignan demonstrated why they will take some beating in the semi-finals in the New Year. They might not have the all-round power of sides such as Stade Francais but they have a commitment and passion that makes up for their lack of any particular strength in depth.

With Bellot, who celebrated his return from a seven-month injury absence with 14 points, Perpignan look a side well equipped. They certainly were on this occasion.

Llanelli's forwards were simply not up to the job and, with Bellot handed an armchair ride in the second period, there was only ever likely to be one outcome. Herve Laporte provided the perfect start with a try that Didier Camberabero converted and with Camberabero finding his range with two further penalties, the home side looked well in control.

However, Llanelli displayed the kind of power play at times that had taken them into the last eight for the first time. Steven Jones kicked three penalties and when Darril Williams raced the length of the field to chase a Jones kick to score, there was a strange and eerie silence among the 10,000-strong French crowd.

Jones bagged a fourth kick on the stroke of half-time, but prior to that Alewyn Joubert had given Perpignan an 18-14 lead with a clever try on the right-hand side. That, however, was the signal for Bellot to replace the veteran Camberabero and from that juncture it was all one-way traffic.

He kicked three penalties inside the opening 12 minutes of the second half and then, with seven minutes remaining, he dummied his way through to score a try which had the crowd leaping from their seats. The full- back Gael Arandiga converted from in front of the posts and Llanelli were down and out for the count.

Referee Allan Lewis did hand out yellow cards to Bernard Goutta and Laurent de Besombes, but it was never a real problem for a Perpignan side who were deserving of this victory on home soil. For Llanelli there were few crumbs of comfort and with Pontypridd losing too it brought to an end, for another season, Welsh interest in this hugely absorbing competition.

Perpignan: G Arandiga; A Joubert, D Plana, N Martin, H Laporte; D Camberabero (B Bellot, 40), M Barrau; R Peillard (capt), R Ibanez, S De Besombes, O Olibeau, P Furet; S Deroeux, B Goutta (G Majoral, 72), T Lievremont.

Llanelli: D Williams; W Proctor, N Davies, R Boobyer, G Evans; S Jones, R Moon; P Booth (S Gale, 55), R McBryde (capt), M Madden, V Cooper, M Voyle; D Hodges, I Boobyer, C Wyatt.

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland)