The Heineken Cup is synonymous with high-profile European clubs and provinces slugging it out to become top dogs of northern hemisphere rugby. It was strange then to see a world-famous name such as Llanelli facing a team that sounds more like a French apple brandy. Perhaps this team should have been sipping their favourite tipple yesterday as they had very little to contribute to a non-contest in which Llanelli gratefully rattled up 15 tries in an embarrassingly one-sided affair.
While acknowledging the frailties and deficiencies of the visitors, Llanelli's ability to put men in space and support the ball carrier was exemplary, with their full-back Matt Cardey the main beneficiary, crossing for five scintillating tries, so equalling the record for the most tries scored in a Heineken Cup match, set by Gloucester's Tom Beim against Roma last season. This resounding victory will keep Llanelli close on Leicester's tail and on this form the Scarlets will relish the thought of the Tigers visiting Stradey Park for the group showdown early in the New Year.
On a mild, still afternoon Llanelli's intent was clear from the start, as their skipper, Scott Quinnell, burst through from loose play on halfway underlining Llanelli's approach and ambition. More significant was the confirmation that the Welsh No 8 has returned to fitness, which is encouraging news for the national side as his presence as the primary ball carrier is crucial for the autumn internationals.
Llanelli won the corresponding tie in Italy last weekend, despite not being at their best, rattling up five tries in the process. It took only 24 minutes to match that try-scoring statistic as the Scarlets dominated possession, continuously spreading the ball wide to release their speedy three-quarters.
The complicated route in qualifying for the knock- out stages of this competition involves six group winners and the best two runners-up. Llanelli, grouped with Leicester and the French side Perpignan, were fully aware of the significance of a healthy try count which will probably settle the final places.
While every Llanelli player enjoyed this Italian frolic, Cardey and the winger Wayne Proctor really went to town. Cardey was at his elusive best and had claimed his hat-trick of tries by the interval. During that period Proctor strolled over for one, as did the fly-half Gareth Bowen, winger Garan Evans and second row Chris Wyatt. Stephen Jones, who slotted in unobtrusively at inside centre, called the shots and managed three conversions in an opening half that left a rather red-faced Llanelli holding a 41-7 lead.
The Italian centre Cristian Zanoletti scored for the visitors following good work by their best player, the New Zealand scrum-half Paul Griffen. Fabio Zitelli converted. Zitelli again converted an interception try scored by Pietro Scanziani on the restart, but the deadly duo of Proctor and Cardey responded with their second and fourth tries respectively.
The closing quarter was even more one-sided as Llanelli completed their Italian job with further tries from Phil Booth, Neil Boobyer, Proctor, Cardey, Evans and John Davies. Jones converted nine tries in total.
Llanelli: M Cardey; W Proctor, N Boobyer, S Jones, G Evans; G Bowen (B Davies, 61), G Easterby; M Madden (P Booth, 60), R McBryde (M Thomas, 60), J Davies, L Gross (C Gillies, 60), C Wyatt, D Hodges (S Morgan, 71), S Quinnell (capt), S Easterby.
Calvisano: P Vaccari (N Vignotti, 78); L Zoin, P Scanziani (G Bocca, 70), C Zanoletti (D Davo, 61), F Zitelli; L Bordes, P Griffen; G De Carli, A Morretti, H Mazino (M Gabba, 61), G Lanzi, L Mastrodomenico (J Ricciardo, 35), E Scottuzzi (A de Rossi, 58), C Mayerhofler (capt), J Purll.
Referee: S Lander (England)Reuse content