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Scarlets 43-34 Perpignan

Scarlets (26) 43
Tries: Priestland 2, King, S Jones. Cons: S Jones 4. Pens: S Jones 5.
Perpignan (15) 34
Tries: Grandclaude, Candelon, Plante, Tonita, Chouly. Cons: Porical 3. Pen: Porical.

Rhys Priestland scored two of Scarlets' four tries against Perpignan
Rhys Priestland scored two of Scarlets' four tries against Perpignan

The Scarlets edged a nine-try thriller to hold off Perpignan in their Heineken Cup opener, with Stephen Jones claiming 28 points in a faultless display.

Perpigan counter-attacks saw Jean-Philippe Grandclaude and Julien Candelon claim early tries.

Scarlets hit back with four tries, the pick Rhys Priestland's second score that saw Scarlet backs in full flow.

Perpignan replied through Adrien Plante, Ovidiu Tonita and Damien Chouly but the French side fell just short.

The Scarlets bossed the early stages but found themselves trailing on the scoreboard as Perpignan countered with glee.

The first try came from a grubber-kick that rendered the Welsh defensive line impotent, allowing French backs to pour through and send Grandclaude over for a grand try.

Jerome Porical failed to convert that score but was on target 10 minutes later when Candelon finished off another fine breakaway.

Scarlets scrum-half Martin Roberts was robbed as he went to pass from the base of a ruck and Perpignan spread the ball left towards Candelon, the wing kicking ahead and following up to gather and score.

Fortunately for the slightly shell-shocked home side, fly-half Jones had kept them ticking over on the scoreboard and his third penalty after just 18 minutes meant the Scarlets only trailed 9-12.

When Porical was sin-binned Jones took the chance to kick the home side level, before the Scarlets let rip with two high-quality tries.

Sean Lamont's counter sparked the first, the left wing breaking through on the opposite flank before the ball was recycled for Regan King to send Priestland over.

That passage of play was hugely pleasing to the eye but was overshadowed by the next Scarlets attack, which must already be a strong contender for try of the season.

Wing Morgan Stoddart fixed his defender and flicked a pass out of the back of his hand to King, who in quick succession repeated that piece of skill to find fellow centre Gareth Maule.

The link-man was aware of Priestland steaming up outside him in support and sent the full-back streaking away down the right wing with a perfectly timed pass, before Jones kept perfection intact with a touchline conversion.

While the backs will take the plaudits, both tries hinged on the efforts of open-side flanker Josh Turnbull who provided crucial support to keep both moves flowing.

Porical struck a penalty to reduce Perpignan's deficit to 26-15 at half-time, but the Scarlets were soon back on the try trail.

Turnbull was again involved, stealing a line-out that allowed the ball to be punted deep into the unmanned Perpignan 22.

Maule did well to follow up and put pressure on the French chasers, allowing King to pick up the ball for a converted try.

A fourth try for a bonus point followed within minutes when prop Iestyn Thomas' inside pass allowed hooker Matthew Rees to punch through and send Jones over - who, of course, converted his own try.

If the Scarlets thought the game was won, however, Perpignan soon gave evidence that there was still much more to come from a thrillingly open game.

Roberts did well to snuff out one chance as he chased back to counter Porical's chip over the top, but then David Marty jinked across the field to send Plante over for a converted try.

Candelon should have grabbed his second try after outstripping the defence down the left, but Lamont did brilliantly to slap the ball out of his hands as the wing stepped inside.

Then the Scarlets needed the help of the video referee to rule the ball had not been grounded in a melee of bodies on the line.

Jones lifted the pressure with his fifth penalty but Scarlets replacement Jonny Fa'amatuainu was sin-binned in the 68th minute for a shoulder charge to give Perpignan further encouragement.

A driving maul shunted Tonita over for Perpignan's fourth try, then with two minutes remaining the French pack again rumbled within striking distance and a quick pass saw Chouly score a converted try from close range.

With no time to go for a winner despite their thrilling fightback, Perpignan had a penalty to move within seven points and claim a second bonus point - only for Porical's long-range effort to fall just short.

Scarlets: Priestland, Stoddart, Maule, King, Lamont, S. Jones, Roberts, I. Thomas, Rees, R. Thomas, Reed, Cooper, McCusker, Turnbull, Lyons.

Replacements: S. Williams for Maule (49), Evans for King (76), Knoyle for Roberts (61), John for I. Thomas (73), Owens for Rees (72), Manu for R. Thomas (62), Fa'amatuainu for Cooper (53), J. Edwards for Turnbull (61).

Sin Bin: Fa'amatuainu (67).

Perpignan: Porical, Plante, Marty, Grandclaude, Candelon, Hume, Cazenave, Freshwater, Geli, Mas, Vivalda, Tchale-Watchou, Guiry, Britz, Chouly.

Replacements: Michel for Plante (70), Edmonds for Grandclaude (41), Mele for Cazenave (41), Schuster for Freshwater (61), Tincu for Geli (62), Pulu for Mas (70), Vilaceca for Vivalda (48), Tonita for Britz (58).

Sin Bin: Porical (27).

Referee: Andrew Small (England).

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see also
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
RaboDirect Pro12
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
Heineken Cup
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
Anglo-Welsh Cup
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union

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