Rugby Union: Proctor runs Scarlet show

Llanelli 29 Bourgoin 10
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The Independent Online
LLANELLI ARE flag-bearers for Welsh rugby in their assault on European front-lines as Wales battles to justify and retain the presence of five clubs in the Heineken Cup. Historically, Llanelli's recipe for success has been based on environs of sublime rugby talent, where naturally gifted players are produced on a conveyor belt, and where rugby is the main talking point for a community that manifests itself on match days in hostile and deeply parochial gatherings at Stradey Park.

Thankfully this encounter was more about talent than hostility and the home crowd basked in reflected glory as Scott Quinnell, Neil Boobyer and Wayne Proctor showed their running skills, with Stephen Jones controlling matters at fly-half in this first meeting between the two clubs.

Following Llanelli's defeat to Wasps in London last Sunday in their opening pool game, a second loss could not be contemplated at home against the burly visitors from Bourgoin, a fiercely ambitious club whose convincing opening victory against reigning champions Ulster underlined their strength. Bourgoin's huge pack has been their foundation stone, while the skill of Stephane Glas provides the balance and creativity behind.

Contrasting fortunes in their opening matches, maybe, but one thing is certain about these European matches - neither the Welsh nor the French are enamoured with travelling. Results are influenced hugely by home advantage and surely there must be a job here for some sport psychologists or men in white coats to ensure more uncertainty in the outcome of these games.

Visiting French teams have often found British referees difficult to fathom. A difference of opinion and a query in interpretation at the first scrum gave Llanelli the lead through a Jones penalty. The French, however, have a tendency to become incensed with every decision that goes against them but, at their best, are magical to watch. Following a second Jones penalty and the replacing of fly-half Alex Peclier in the 12th minute, Bourgoin created two openings that should have resulted in tries. The final pass on both occasions was badly timed and their only reward was a solitary penalty for replacement fly-half Mark McKenzie.

Llanelli rarely play second fiddle to anyone at Stradey and they responded in some style with two tries in five minutes. Boobyer and skipper Proctor played havoc with the Bourgoin midfield, with Proctor giving Boobyer the chance to kick ahead and claim the first try, and Boobyer returning the compliment with a flat pass for his captain to weave his way over.

Llanelli were now rampant, with Rob McBryde, Quinnell and Simon Easterby driving straight at, and often through, the visitors' overworked midfield defence. On the half-hour, full-back Matt Cardey led a Llanelli counter- attack that saw forwards and backs exchange passes to send Chris Wyatt cruising the final 30 metres to extend the lead.

Bourgoin responded with a forward drive from an attacking line-out that gave flanker Julien Frier his side's only try, which McKenzie converted. Jones then completed the first-half scoring with a short-range penalty for Llanelli.

The second half proved a rather drab affair with both teams seemingly resigned to the customary home victory. Some assistance from the men in white coats and an away victory could see Llanelli successfully wave the Welsh flag in Europe.

Llanelli: M Cardey; W Proctor (capt), N Boobyer, S Finau, D James; S Jones, R Moon; P Booth (S Emms, 72), R McBride, J Davies, C Wyatt, C Gillies, S Easterby, S Quinnell, I Boobyer.

Bourgoin: G Davis; E Tuni, J McLaren, S Glas, L Gioliti; A Peclier (M McKenzie, 17), L Balue; O Milloud (P Versillier, 70), J Martin-Culet (J F Tordo, 55), R Magellan (P Peyram, 70), J Daude (R Molur, 75), L Nallet, A Chazalet (capt), J Frier, P Raschi.

Referee: M Whyte (Ire).