The Scarlets got off to the perfect start to their Heineken Cup campaign thanks to a comprehensive 43-34 victory against Perpignan.
The Scarlets got off to the perfect start to their Heineken Cup campaign thanks to a comprehensive 43-34 victory against French giants Perpignan on Saturday.
Fly-half Stephen Jones bagged a personal haul of 28 points as the Scarlets opened their Pool Five account with a bonus-point win in a nine-try thriller at Parc y Scarlets.
The hosts were outscored by five tries to four in an enthralling and open contest but Jones' five penalties, four conversions and second-half try proved crucial.
Two tries from full-back Rhys Priestland late in the opening stanza plus 16 points from Jones put the hosts 26-15 up at the break. Jean-Philippe Grandclaude and Julien Candelon went over for the French side with Jerome Porical landing a conversion and a penalty.
Scarlets wrapped up a bonus point as Regan King and Jones went over to complete a spell where the hosts racked up four tries in a total of 16 minutes either side of the break. Jones then added another penalty before Adrien Plante and Ovidiu Tonita gave Perpignan a bonus point, with Damien Chouly also crossing in the dying moments.
The Scarlets made a vibrant start as scrum-half Martyn Roberts got his hand through the tackle to feed captain Matthew Rees, who in turn passed to flanker Rob McCusker as they burst into the Perpignan 22.
McCusker was hauled down but the French side's scramble defence cynically infringed to allow Jones to give his side a third-minute lead.
Perpignan hit back as Gavin Hume's grubber was gathered by Plante and moved on to Grandclaude, who touched down two phases later after a lovely miss pass from centre partner David Marty, although Porical made a mess of the conversion.
A 12th-minute penalty for offside allowed Jones to put the Scarlets back in front but the lead barely lasted three minutes before the Catalan side's second try arrived in controversial fashion.
Scrum-half Florian Cazenave stole the ball from an apparently offside position and launched a flowing counter-attack. Flanker Bertrand Guiry floated the ball out to wing Candelon, who grubbered past Priestland to dot down. Porical's conversion made it 12-6, although Jones replied with his third penalty before the end of the first quarter.
Perpignan were being dogged by ill-discipline, conceding a stream of needless penalties, and the Scarlets were level when Jones kicked his fourth penalty in the 28th minute after Porical had seen yellow for foolishly kicking Josh Turnbull, and Jones was off target moments later with another penalty attempt.
But the home side's first try finally came after a purposeful counter from Sean Lamont. Turnbull took the ball on and when it was moved wide Regan King put Priestland over for a score converted by Jones.
Porical returned but there was nothing the visitors could do to prevent the Scarlets producing an outstanding score.
Stoddart went racing into space and out-the-back-door passes from the winger and King saw Gareth Maule put Priestland in at the corner. Jones added the extras from out wide for a 26-12 lead.
Porical kicked a penalty to cut the gap on the stroke of half-time to end an exhilarating 40 minutes.
But the Scarlets effectively killed the game off with two tries within seven minutes of the resumption.
A mistake in the Perpignan midfield saw King hack ahead and when Candelon failed to gather the ball under pressure from Maule the Kiwi centre strolled over under the posts for a converted try.
Another then followed after some lovely inter-passing between backs and forwards saw skipper Rees send Jones in for his 50th try for Llanelli and the Scarlets to seal the bonus point. The fly-half dusted himself down to add the extras and establish an imposing 40-15 lead.
Perpignan enjoyed a decent period of pressure and were rewarded when Plante strode through a chasm in the home defence to cross, with Porical again on target with the conversion.
The Scarlets heaped more pressure on themselves as replacement Jonny Fa'amatuainu was sin-binned for an illegal hit on Plante, and his absence helped the French side rumble over for their own bonus-point try courtesy of replacement Tonita.
Chouly added their fifth try with time running out as the Catalan outfit finished by far the stronger side, and Porical then missed with a last-gasp long-range penalty which would have given his side a second bonus point.
Tries: Priestland 2, King, Jones
Cons: Jones 4
Pens: Jones 5
Tries: Grandclaude, Candelon, Plante, Tonita, Chouly
Cons: Porical 3
Scarlets: 15 Rhys Priestland, 14 Morgan Stoddart, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Regan King, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Martin Roberts, 8 David Lyons, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Rob McCusker, 5 Vernon Cooper, 4 Lou Reed, 3 Rhys Thomas, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Iestyn Thomas
Replacements:16 Ken Owens, 17 Phil John, 18 Deacon Manu, 19 Jonny Fa'amatuainu, 20 Jon Edwards, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Scott Williams, 23 Daniel Evans
Perpignan: 15 JÃ©rÃ´me Porical, 14 Adrien Plante, 13 David Marty, 12 Jean-Philippe Grandclaude, 11 Julien Candelon, 10 Gavin Hume, 9 Florian Cazenave, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Gerrie Britz, 6 Bertrand Guiry, 5 Robins Tchale Watchou, 4 Yoann Vivalda, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Charles Geli, 1 Perry Freshwater
Replacements: 16 Marius Tincu, 17 JÃ©rÃ´me Schuster, 18 Kisi Pulu, 19 Guillaume Vilaceca, 20 David Mele, 21 Joffrey Michel, 22 Manny Edmonds, 23 Ovidiu Tonita
Referee: Andrew Small