Rugby Union: Voyle struts at Stradey

Llanelli 17 Stade Francais 13
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The Independent Online
LLANELLI KEPT their European Cup quarter-final hopes alive with a magnificent backs-to-the-wall victory over the French champions at Stradey Park yesterday. The ground has witnessed plenty of famous victories down the years and this Pool A triumph will be up there with some of the very best.

Written off as no hopers against the glitzy Parisienne big-spenders, the Scarlets defied a seemingly crippling injury list to their back division to turn the form book on its head. Full-back John Williams, "borrowed" from Bath's United team, took the step up in class in his stride, landing four out of six penalty goal chances to provide the difference as the Welsh Cup holders at last got their Euro adventure up and running.

Now they have to beat Leinster at Donnybrook on Friday night - and rely on Stade Francais bouncing back and beating Begles-Bordeaux in the process - to clinch what had looked a hugely improbable place in the last eight.

The Llanelli pack never gave an inch in a battling performance that reduced the slick French side to a shambles. They were forced into a succession of schoolboy errors as it dawned on them that the Scarlets were on the brink of causing one of the biggest upsets in the four-year history of the tournament. The No 8 Chris Wyatt produced a towering performance while at fly-half Neil Boobyer controlled matters with a cool head on the day his twin Roddy and other brother Ian played together in a Llanelli side for the first time.

Williams, who had hardly had time to be introduced to his new team-mates, kicked Llanelli into an early lead with a sixth-minute penalty and added another shortly before half-time. But in that opening period it always looked as if the French club were simply biding their time. The international centre Richard Dourthe cancelled out Llanelli's early advantage and then their scrum power produced a try for No 8 Xavier Blond as he flopped on the ball. Dourthe converted.

The half-time break was used to good advantage by the home coach, Gareth Jenkins and Llanelli came out like a revitalised side. It took them just four minutes to regain the lead they were never to lose again, Neil Boobyer booted them into an attacking position and a mistake by the left wing, Christophe Manas presented the Scarlets with a close-range line-out. Second row Mike Voyle soared high to claim possession and with his fellow forwards piling in, Wyatt emerged from a pile of bodies with his side's only try.

Two more penalties by Williams, and another from Dourthe, completed the scoring and the only disappointment was that barely 2,000 supporters were present to witness Llanelli's unhibited victory celebrations.

Llanelli: D Williams; J Williams, G John, R Boobyer, G Evans; N Boobyer, R Moon; P Booth, J Hyatt, M Madden, A Copsey (capt), M Voyle, D Hodges, C Wyatt, I Boobyer,.

Stade Francais: A Gomes; S Viars, R Dourthe, C Mytton, C Manas; L Guetard, L Lousteau; S Marconnet, L Pedrosa, P de Villiers, D Auradou, G Ross, S Keith, X Blond, R Pool-Jones (capt).

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland)

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