Stade Français have left the Scarlets' hopes of a Heineken Cup quarter-final hanging precariously, after a brilliant third quarter helped the Parisians to a 37-15 bonus-point victory in Paris on Saturday.
The match was finely-balanced at 9-8 at the break, but three tries in thirteen second-half minutes after it had Stade 30-8 ahead and looking untouchable.
As Toulouse did to Glasgow last night, so Stade Français spent much of the first half prodding round the opposition defence and making sure they knew what the referee was doing. They conceded three penalties in the first quarter of an hour, all for not rolling away, and then only one more from then until the hour mark, by which time the game had been wrapped up. They sized up the margins allowed, and then built a game around them.
They also built a game around the superb line-out, which lost not one throw all game.
Lionel Beauxis kept the scoreboard ticking over with some terrific penalty-kicking, and both he and Hernandez kept the Scarlets at bay with some morale-sapping territorial kicking (as well as four highly speculative drop goal attempts). It wasn't a pretty first half from the team with the pretty-boy shirts.
The Scarlets played with far more adventure, and ought to have been leading at the break but for the wayward boot of Stephen Jones that missed two first-half pots at goal.
But as Glasgow found against Toulouse last night as well, you have to be prepared for all sorts of eventualities against the topmost French sides. Enthusiasm and earnest endeavour are one thing, but you need a little more sophistication to actually spoil a French party.
Occasionally, they have it. With the scores tied at 3-3 after 20 minutes, Morgan Stoddart - who did his November (and Lions) chances no harm at all - caught an attempted drop goal by Hernandez right by his own posts, and set off. His change of pace took him past Stéphane Glas and clean through, before he drew Beauxis perfectly and popped a pass off to Mark Jones.
The Welsh wing still had plenty to do - not least touching the ball down while his body hovered above the touchline - but the Scarlets had briefly brought a little colour to a game which had been tinged with grey until then.
There were flashes from the French, forebodings of what was to come. Julien Arias made a super break after 15 minutes, and only desperate defence from Mark Jones kept Julien Saubade at bay. A Hernandez box kick was so nearly latched onto by Saubade running from deep in what was a rehearsed move that the Scarlets never saw coming.
They had to be content with only two more penalties in the end, both from 40-odd metres out, one for offside, and one for holding on as the Scarlets struggled with the weight of numbers chasing Beauxis' and Hernandez's kicks.
There was no stopping them in the second half. Brian Liebenberg's crash in the middle and some sublime handling to the left saw Aubade in for a try he richly deserved. Beauxis' conversion from the sideline matched the handling that preceded the try.
Then Sergio Parisse took another textbook line-out ball and charged deep into the Scarlets' 22. Three phases later, the Italian popped up again on the right to finish off the move, Beauxis once again converting.
Then a line-out on the left was once again taken easily and the ball was spun to the right where Glas went close. It was Parisse again who got the ball over the line though, once again tireless in his support.
That was game over. The Scarlets did rally in vain search of perhaps a bonus point, and Ceiron Thomas gave them a sniff of a chance, finishing off a neat move.
But Beauxis stepped in to charge down Thomas' attempted chip in the final minute, and the full-back raced away for the bonus-point try.
Man of the match: Juan Martin Hernandez showed lots of talents in the second half, and Lionel Beauxis was relentless with the boot and excellent with the ball in hand. But the pulsing heart of the Parisians was Sergio Parisse - surely he is the only one challenging Dan Carter for IRB Player of the Year.
For Stade Français:
Tries: Saubade, Parisse 2, Beauxis
Cons: Beauxis 4
Pens: Beauxis 3
For the Scarlets:
Tries: M. Jones, Thomas
Pen: S. Jones
Stade Français: 15 Lionel Beauxis, 14 Julien Arias, 13 Stéphane Glas, 12 Brian Liebenberg, 11 Julien Saubade, 10 Juan Martin Hernández, 9 Noel Oelschig, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Pierre Rabadan, 6 Mauro Bergamasco, 5 Simon Taylor, 4 Arnaud Marchois, 3 David Attoub, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Rodrigo Roncero.
Replacements: 16 Mathieu Blin, 17 Sylvain Marconnet, 18 Pierre Vigouroux, 19 Robins Tchale Watchou, 20 Terry Bouhraoua, 21 Mathieu Bastareaud, 22 Djibril Camara.
Scarlets: 15 Morgan Stoddart, 14 Darren Daniel, 13 Regan King, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Mark Jones, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Martin Roberts, 8 David Lyons, 7 Gavin Thomas, 6 Simon Easterby (c), 5 Dafydd Jones, 4 Dominic Day, 3 Kees Meeuws, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Iestyn Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Phil John, 18 Josh Turnbull, 19 Jon Edwards, 20 Sililo Martens, 21 Ceiron Thomas, 22 Rob Higgitt.
Referee: Peter Allan (Scotland)
Touch judges: Rob Dickson (Scotland) Ronnie Dumma (Scotland)