Toulon start title defence with Scarlets victory

Toulon kicked off their bid for a third successive European Rugby title with
a 28-18 victory over Welsh side Scarlets in the Rugby Champions Cup.

Welsh region the Scarlets stayed in touch for the best part of an hour before
conceding a third try to lose their grip on a losing bonus point and go down

It was Steffon Armitage who finally ended the Welsh resistance when he crossed
in the 71st minute for a try which Leigh Halfpenny, on his home debut for the
double champions, converted.

That took the gap to 15 points, but still left Toulon one try short of an expected
bonus point.

The Scarlets, who played with black arm bands as a mark of respect to their
former chief executive, Stuart Gallacher, who died earlier in the day, ended
a highly creditable afternoon’s work with a try from Kristian Phillips to go
with a first-half try from John Barclay.

Twice the visitors went down to 14-men, the first time after only six minutes
when Rory Pitman saw yellow for a high tackle on wing David Smith. That allowed
Halfpenny to kick the home side in front.

Rhys Priestland brought the visitors level with a penalty before Matt Giteau
lit up the contest with a wonderful individual try.

Halfpenny bizarrely failed to add the simple conversion after the ball fell
off its tee half-way through his run-up and the Scarlets picked the ball up
to save two points.

The Scarlets then hit back with Barclay’s try after good approach work by
Scott and Liam Williams, but straight from the restart Scarlets skipper Scott
Williams took too long over a clearance and Maxime Mermoz charged down his kick
and went under the posts.

Halfpenny added the extras and then swapped penalties with Priestland before
the interval to give Toulon a slender 18-13 lead at the break.

Toulon put the Scarlets under fierce pressure at the beginning of the second
period but were finding it difficult to break through the visitors’ defence.

Hooker Emyr Phillips then became the second Scarlets player to be sent to the
bin for using his hands on the floor after David Smith had made a dangerous
break for Toulon.

But after going to touch with the penalty, Toulon lost the line-out and the
Scarlets were able to clear. A lack of precision from the champions, allied
to the dogged Scarlets defence, meant this was never the romp the Toulon fans
had hoped for.

Halfpenny added a long-range penalty with 15 minutes remaining to settle home
nerves and then came the Armitage short range special, complete with conversion.

Phillips raced over in the left corner with the last move of the match to show
what the Scarlets are capable of, but they now need to beat Leicester Tigers
at home in Round 2 to stay in the hunt for a quarter-final place.

Final Score Toulon (18) 28 Scarlets (13) 18


Tries – Giteau, Mermoz, Armitage
Pen – Halfpenny 3
Con – Halfpenny 2
Drop –
Cards –

Tries – Barclay, Phillips
Pen – Priestland 2
Con – Priestland
Drop –
Cards –

Match Official
J P Doyle



Leigh Halfpenny; David Smith, Mathieu Bastareaud, Maxime Mermoz, Bryan Habana;
Matt Giteau, Sebastien Tillous-Borde; Xavier Chiocci, Jean-Charles Orioli, Carl
Hayman (capt), Bakkies Botha, Ali Williams, Juan Smith, Juan Fernandez Lobbe,
Steffon Armitage.

Replacements: Guilhem Guirado, Alexandre Menini, Levan Chilacha

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