Toulouse 34 Llanelli Scarlets 41: Red-letter day for Jones and Scarlets

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The Independent Online

After one of the most fantastic games in the history of the Heineken Cup the Llanelli Scarlets did not hit the bars of Toulouse. While their small pocket of scarlet-clad supporters painted the town red, the players took a charter flight to Wales and on Saturday evening were winding down at the Vale of Glamorgan health and leisure centre. The de-brief must have been exhilarating.

Having beaten Toulouse, three-time winners of the championship of Europe, 20-19 at Stradey Park last week, the Scarlets were not expected to complete the double. The squad, however, was on a different plane. They did not, they maintained afterwards, go to Toulouse to lose, a fate which awaits most visitors to the Stade Ernest Wallon.

"We knew that if we kept our heads we could win the match," the fly-half Stephen Jones said. "We still had belief in our style of play and I knew if we could ask questions of them it would be interesting to see how they'd respond. It was an awesome game of rugby."

Jones, the Wales stand-off and captain, has invaluable experience of French club rugby after a spell with Clermont Auvergne and his contribution was significant. It wasn't just his goalkicking - seven out of seven - but his advice to his scrum-half, Dwayne Peel, who had taken over the captaincy from the injured Simon Easterby. Toulouse had nothing to compare.

"You don't get too many games like this," Phil Davies, the Scarlets coach, said, "and it has given us the confidence and knowledge that we can beat anyone on our day. The character we showed to come back from a big deficit was brilliant. We have a game plan that will threaten any team."

Paul Moriarty, Davies' assistant, said: "At half-time everybody thought we were going to lose by a big score. We came from behind to pip them at Stradey and Toulouse felt we couldn't raise our game. Maybe they underestimated us. Once we were level I knew we could win because I saw their heads drop. I suspected they were fragile and when we tested them they couldn't cope with the pressure."

Towards the end of the first half, and again early in the second, the visitors trailed by 21 points. The hero of the hour was Clément Poitrenaud, the Toulouse and France full-back, who played a blinder, scored four tries - a one-man bonus point - and still made a dejected exit from the tournament. What a day for a day dream. In the first match Toulouse scored three tries to two and Poitrenaud got one of them. Here it was Scarlets five, Poitrenaud four and the real turning point came when the full-back missed an easy tackle on his opposite number, Barry Davies, who started and finished a counter-attack from his own 22. That made it 31-24 and the Scarlets were flying.

The young wing Darren Daniel - he was playing because Mark Jones was injured - had already touched down from a splendid piece of work by Alix Popham, a member of an outstanding back row, when he was awarded another, courtesy of the video referee. There was no respite for Graham Hughes, the official in question, as, with the score at 34-34, he ruled that Trevor Brennan, a Toulouse replacement, had failed to ground the ball over the line and Florian Fritz had missed with a drop goal. It is just as well that the excellent Chris White, the actual referee, did not make those calls. He was already taking enough flak.

A draw, with a four-try bonus point, would have given the Scarlets three points to add to their 13 in Pool Five but in the second minute of injury time they had the nerve to score a fifth, Regan King (shouldn't that be "Regal"?) darting through a confused defence to lay on a try for Nathan Thomas. Dramatic? Just a bit. At the end the Toulouse supporters, who have witnessed the collapse of a once great team, stood up and clapped the Scarlets off the pitch. Later the Toulouse Supporters' Club shop, which would normally be full of customers, especially at this time of the year, contained just two fans. And they were from Llanelli.

Toulouse: Tries Poitrenaud 4; Conversions Courrent 4; Penalty Courrent; Drop-goal Du Toit. Llanelli Scarlets: Tries James, Daniel 2, B Davies, N Thomas; Conversions S Jones 5; Penalties S Jones 2.

Toulouse: C Poitrenaud (B Baby, 72); V Clerc, M Kunavore, F Fritz, C Heymans; G du Toit, V Courrent (J-B Elissalde, 74); J-B Poux, Y Bru (capt; V Lacombe, 65) D Human (S Perugini, 40), F Pelous (R Millochluski, 39), P Albacete, J Bouilhou (T Brennan, 74), T Dusautoir, G Lamboley (Y Nyanga, 58).

Llanelli Scarlets: B Davies; D Daniel (Garan Evans, 75), Gavin Evans, R King, D James; S Jones, D Peel (capt); I Thomas, M Rees, C Dunlea (D Manu, 32), A Jones (I Afeaki, 40), S MacLeod, D Jones, G Thomas, A Popham (N Thomas, 72).

Referee: C White (England).