Thomas' knee survives the thriller

Llanelli Scarlets 42 Toulouse 49
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Toulouse got what they came for - a bonus point in victory to guarantee home advantage in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup. But they also got a lot of what they were dishing out in an 11-try thriller in which the Scarlets, with nothing to play for, decided to go down with all guns blazing.

The Scarlets opened the scoring and also had the last word with arguably the try of the match, a fabulous piece of interplay between the full-back Barry Davies and the Wales wing Mark Jones that covered 80 metres. If only the home side had fared better at the line-out and had held on to one or two more passes.

As it was, despite Davies opening the scoring after 49 seconds following a charge down from the kick-off, it was the cannier, more streetwise Toulouse who controlled events. In Frédéric Michalak they had an ace in the hole. The France fly-half was at his trickiest and outside him was the incomparable centre Yannick Jauzion, who displayed some magical touches.

Toulouse also possess one of the deadliest finishers around at the moment. Their right wing Vincent Clerc ran in four tries - his two first-half efforts helping to secure the try-scoring bonus point before the break. The French side even had a first-half try disallowed after being spotted by the TV match official holding back a Scarlet who was giving chase to a kick ahead. Once that bonus point was in the bag, though - the centre Florian Fritz scoring the fourth try shortly before the break - everyone expected Toulouse to cut loose.

They tried, but they reckoned without the Scarlets, who were smarting at their failure to make a better fist of their European campaign. As good as the Toulouse backs were in attack there was a distinctly dodgy look to their defence, despite the presence of the burly Jauzion.

Too often they fell off first-up tackles. The Wales scrum-half Dwayne Peel was always alert for a gap in the line and he invariably received support. The Scarlets were within touching distance at the end, having picked up a try-scoring bonus point themselves.

There was some good news for the Welsh. Toulouse's full-back Gareth Thomas, the Wales captain, came through without any immediate problems with his right knee, which was heavily strapped. He did pull up after turning sharply at the end but later pronounced the joint fine.

The home coach, Gareth Jenkins, said: "Now we have to change our focus. There are still things to be won. We are in the Powergen semi-finals and at the top end of the Celtic League and we must maintain our concentration for those two."

Llanelli: B Davies; M Jones, M Watkins, R King, D James (capt); M Hercus, D Peel ; M Madden, M Rees, J Davies, H Louw (I Afeake, 56), A Jones, D Jones, A Popham, G Thomas (G Quinnell, 77).

Toulouse: G Thomas; V Clerc, Y Jauzion, F Fritz (M Mermoz, 65), X Garbajosa ; F Michalak (J-F Dubois, 44), J-B Elissalde; J-P Poux, Y Bru (capt) O Hasan (D Human, 72), F Pelous, R Millo-Chlusky (G Lamboley, 61), J Bouilhou, I Maka, Y Nyanga (JF Montauriol, 66).

Referee: D Pearson (England).

Comments