Scarlets brought down the curtain on 129 years of rugby at Stradey Park with a comprehensive win over Bristol in the EDF Energy Cup in a night dominated by celebrations marking the end of an era.
A sell-out crowd watched the Scarlets final game at Stradey before the ground is demolished for housing and the club moves two miles down the road to their new stadium, Parc y Scarlets. The emotional evening for the Scarlets began with live music and a parade of surviving Stradey Park captains including Phil Bennett, who was celebrating his 60th birthday.
The three-try win took Scarlets to the top of Group D, although they missed out on a fourth try and a bonus point. They fielded a side showing four changes from the team that went down 37-15 to Stade Francais in Paris last Saturday. Bristol selected a mostly second-string outfit with only wing Lee Robinson keeping his place from the starting line-up which beat Toulon last Friday, their first victory of the season.
The match began with a try worthy of the occasion when the impressive Regan King went on an arcing run down the right and put Morgan Stoddart over on three minutes. But after that, although the Scarlets had the better platform, the first half rather lost its way.
It took a Stephen Jones penalty on 16 minutes from a ruck to extend the Scarlets' lead to 10-0, but it was Bristol, through a counter-attack from scrum-half Haydn Thomas and wing Lee Robinson, who looked likely to score next until Scarlets regrouped.
In the dying minutes of the half, a break by Wales wing Mark Jones set up a position from which captain Simon Easterby scored a try, awarded after a referral to the television match official. Jones converted to give his side a 17-0 interval lead.
It was Jones who was first to put points on the board in the second half with a 49th-minute penalty from in front of the posts before Stoddart sent Rob Higgitt over against his former club. The Scarlets had an abundance of chances to grab the bonus-point try, especially through runs down the right by Stoddart, but failed.
Outside-half Jones said: "It was a great occasion. There were a lot of pre-match nerves. We wanted to get a win to give this great stadium a send off. We had to concentrate on the rugby side of things and not let the emotion get to us."
Scorers: Scarlets Tries: Stoddart, Easterby, Higgitt. Cons: S Jones (3) Pens: S Jones (3)
Scarlets: Stoddart; Higgitt, King, Evans, M Jones; S Jones, Martens; I Thomas, Owens, Meeuws, Cooper, Day, N Thomas, Easterby (c), Lyons. Replacements: Davies for G Evans (62), C Thomas for M Jones (67), Roberts for Martens (59), Rees for Owen (53), John for Meeuws (53), D Jones for Cooper (41).
Bristol: Elliott; Robinson, Eves, Fatialofa, Turner; Ashwin, Thomas; Irish, Linklater, Crompton, Sambucetti, Sidoli, Salter, R Pennycook, Blowers. Replacements: Maggs for Fatialofa (58), Alford for Thomas (66), Blaney for Linklater (62), Bracken for Crompton (64), C Pennycook for Blowers (64).
Referee: D Bodilly
nThe Welsh Rugby Union last night won the first round of a legal argument with its four professional regional teams over player release in advance of the meeting with South Africa in Cardiff a fortnight today. Judge Havelock Allan QC instructed the regions to free players for international squad training from Monday to Wednesday next week, despite the proximity of key matches in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.