Jones brings the smiles back to Llanelli

Llanelli Scarlets 20 Leinster 18
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The Independent Online

There was some good news for Llanelli Scarlets fans to savour last night - the impending return of Stephen Jones from France, which will bring back some sanity after a strange week.

This tense Celtic League win was barely over when the Scarlets' chief executive Stuart Gallacher announced Jones will return from Clermont Auvergne in June on a two-year contract that includes an option for a third.

Gallacher said: "We always hoped it would be case of au revoir rather than goodbye and that has proved to be the case. Stephen was a key member of our squad from the time he joined as an 18-year-old until his departure for France at the end of 2003-04. Since then he has continued to mature as a player, as we have seen with Wales and the Lions.

"We are building one of the most exciting back divisions in Europe. We are also moving into our new purpose-built stadium with state-of-the-art training facilities for the 2007-08 season. I know Steve is excited about our plans and that played a major part in his decision to come back to us. And I have spoken to the Wales coach Mike Ruddock, who is delighted Stephen is returning to play his rugby in Wales."

Jones' return will be welcome, following an incident during the Scarlets' 32-13 win over Cardiff Blues last Monday when a fan who has since been identified as a a convicted football hooligan allegedly verbally abused the Blues wing Jonah Lomu.

The Scarlets season ticket holder Simon Derek Coddington faces a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday. Coddington is subject to a six-year ban from Nottingham Forest games and is also banned from all international football games involving United Kingdom teams.

On the field the Scarlets dominated Leinster, whose captain Brian O'Driscoll lasted a little over an hour as he continued his return from shoulder surgery. The home side could not turn their pressure into sufficient points and at the death O'Driscoll's replacement Denis Hickie scored a try, but Felipe Contepomi's conversion attempt to level the scores hit an upright.

Llanelli Scarlets: B Davies; M Jones, MJ Watkins, R King, L Byrne; M Hercus, D Peel (C Stuart-Smith, 75); C Dunlea, M Rees, M Madden (J Davies, 73), H Louw (V Cooper, 53), A Jones, D Jones, A Popham, S Easterby.

Leinster: G Dempsey; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll (capt; D Hickie, 64), G D'Arcy. K Lewis; F Contepomi, G Easterby (B O'Riordan, 39-40; 58); R Corrigan, B Blaney, W Green (D Blaney, 19), A Byrnes (B Williams, 59), M O'Kelly, E Miller, J Heaslip, K Gleeson.

Referee: M Changleng (Scotland).

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