Departing Jones inspires Scarlets to Celtic glory

Llanelli Scarlets 23 Ulster 16
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The Independent Online

Stephen Jones tonight steered Llanelli Scarlets to their first Celtic League title, and admitted: "It is a great feeling".

Stephen Jones tonight steered Llanelli Scarlets to their first Celtic League title, and admitted: "It is a great feeling".

The Welsh international fly-half produced a virtuoso display on his farewell performance before joining French club Montferrand this summer.

He kicked 18 points from a drop-goal and five penalties but, crucially, created the decisive try for centre Matthew Watkins following a slashing midfield break.

Jones was the one player that Ulster could not handle, and Llanelli's closest title rivals were undone 23-16 in the Stradey Park championship showdown.

Ulster gave as good as they got, but slipped away when Llanelli stepped up a gear during the third quarter.

"This is a great feeling - it means so much to everyone involved to win tonight," said Jones, who received a standing ovation when he left the field five minutes from time.

"We got going a bit in the second half, and our forwards were involved a bit more, and it enabled us to gain some crucial scores.

"The support we've had this season has been superb, and I've had a great eight years here. The team spirit is awesome."

Llanelli's triumph went some way towards compensating for their Heineken Cup quarter-final exit against Biarritz last month, and ensured that they ended the season on a high.

"We didn't panic at half-time. We knew that we had to build the game to win, and I think it showed that you benefit from the more pressure games you play in," said Llanelli rugby director Gareth Jenkins.

"This has galvanised the season for us, it has given us something from the campaign and it is a great measure of the balance in our squad.

"It was emotional out there, and it couldn't be more fitting that someone like Stephen should have made such a contribution.

"He has been a fantastic Scarlet, and we wish him all the best - he will remember tonight forever."

Ulster coach Alan Solomons, who now leaves Ulster to replace Wayne Smith in charge of Northampton, had no complaints about the result.

"It was a fantastic game of rugby, a wonderful evening and occasion. I am not disappointed," said Solomons.

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