Scarlets no match for red-hot Toulouse

Toulouse 50 Llanelli Scarlets 28
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The Independent Online

Almost exactly a year ago, Toulouse kicked off what was to be a triumphant march through Europe against the same opponents at a rain-soaked Stradey Park, and went on to lift the Heineken Cup.

Yesterday, with the sun on their backs in the south of France, the reigning champions dismissed Llanelli with a performance that will have sent a clear message to the rest of the competition. Toulouse started slowly and Llanelli took an early 6-0 lead through the boot of Gareth Bowen. But they were badly hit when their captain, Simon Easterby, left the field with a gash above an eye after 10 minutes. It was to be the first of four similar injuries that left the scrums uncontested for the entire second half.

Behind a monstrous pack led by the barnstorming bursts of Isitolo Maka, the stars of the show were the French internationals Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and Yannick Jauzion.

The latter in particular was inspirational during a first-half blitz, creating two of his side's three tries while going mighty close himself. Clement Poitrenaud outjumped Llanelli's defence for Jean-Frederic Dubois' chip inside 20 minutes. Gareth Thomas was then held up over the line, but Jauzion was in scintillating form. He was twice involved in the attack that saw Jean Bouilhou crash over before standing strong in the tackle to offload in a move finished off by Thomas in the corner.

Llanelli refused to give in, and Dafydd James' try on the stroke of half-time offered some encouragement, and then Bowen's penalty reduced the arrears to 24-14.

That galvanised the champions into a response, with Maka, Dubois and Cedric Heymans all going over. Still the Scarlets kept scoring through Hottie Louw and Matthew Watkins, only for the outstanding Florian Fritz to bring up the half-century with his score in the corner.

Toulouse: C Poitrenaud; G Thomas (X Garbajosa, 63), Y Jauzion, F Fritz, C Heymans; JF Dubois, JB Elissalde; JB Poux, Y Bru (capt), O Hasan (J Fiorini, 65), F Pelous, R Millo-Chlusky, J Bouilhou (G Lamboley, 55), Y Nyanga, I Maka (A McCullen, 68).

Scarlets: L Byrne (B Davies, 68); D James, M Watkins, R King, M Jones (G Evans, 68); G Bowen (M Hercus, 68), L Davies; I Thomas (P John, 30), A Gravelle, J Davies (M Rees, 40), A Jones, I Afeaki (H Louw, 59), J Mills, A Popham, S Easterby (capt; G Thomas, 10).

Referee: C White (England).