TOULON PART TWO….THE REVENGE!
By Helen ‘Helzbach’ Davies
Following a strong over-all performance last week that saw the Scarlets unlucky not to have beaten 3 time Champions Toulon, today the Scarlets eagerly await the return leg, hoping to take full advantage of any opportunities offered to them.
An early penalty offered Toulon the chance to put some points on the board, however their decision to kick for the corner resulted in the Scarlets taking full advantage of a Toulon knock-on to clear their lines and counter-attack. DTH came close to scoring the opening try of the match as the home team. Steff Evans was next in line to lose the ball over the line as the Scarlets finally made the decision to take 3 points for their efforts with an easy penalty from Rhys Patchell to open the score line at 3 points to 0.
The home team continued to look the stronger of the teams as excellent handling from the backs saw Scott Williams stroll over under the posts. Again, Patchell added the simple conversion to give the men a red a 10 point to 0 advantage.
The confidence in the home team was evident as they were awarded another penalty after disrupting the Toulon line-out. Patchell’s reliability with the boot further increased the lead to 13 points to 0 before Leigh Halfpenny finally opened the scoring for the visitors with a long-range penalty attempt – 13 points to 3.
The Scarlets fought back immediately with DTH breaking through before off-loading to Gareth Davies who again fumbled the ball over the line. Immense pressure from the Scarlets pack at the scrum saw the awarding of a penalty before the Toulon forwards allowed their frustrations boil over and despite a strong case for a hit on Gareth Davies, the Toulon team was very fortunate to continue as a full XV. Patchell again slotted over the simple penalty attempt to restore the 13-point advantage – 16 points to 3.
A second successful penalty attempt from Halfpenny kept the visitors in touch – 16 points to 6, despite the Scarlets playing the majority of the rugby and handling errors costing them 3 tries in the first half an hour. Had these opportunities been executed the Scarlets could have secured a try bonus point before half time!
With the end of the half fast approaching Leigh Halfpenny was offered another penalty attempt from the half way line, but for once he had neither the distance or the accuracy. He was offered a much easier attempt, right in front of the posts to end the half and this time slotted over the kick with ease to give the Scarlets a half time lead of 16 points to 9. Despite trailing by just a converted try, Toulon will be feeling very fortunate to be still in the game.
Rhys Patchell opened up the 10-point gap once more early in the second half as he continued with his 100% kicking record to bring the scores to 19 points to 9, however Halfpenny cancelled this out within a matter of seconds – 19 points to 12.
Halfpenny was offered a second opportunity a short while later but again he didn’t have the distance to the relief of the Scarlets’ faithful.
It took over 50 minutes for Toulon to even threaten the Scarlets try-line such had been the dominance of the men in red, however their lack of discipline not only saw them give away a penalty right on the try line, but replacement Florian Fresia was given a yellow card for dangerous play, giving the Scarlets a man advantage.
A very dubious penalty decision from referee Matthew Carley offered Halfpenny a chance to notch up his fifth penalty to bring the score line to 19 points to 15, his boot very much keeping his team in the game.
Excellent work at the breakdown from the Scarlets forwards saw Patchell slotting over another to re-open the seven-point gap – 22 – 15, but again Halfpenny was on hand seconds later with his sixth successful attempt….22 – 18 as Toulon seemed to begin to play something like the three time champions with an array of World Class players that they are.
Halfpenny’s seventh penalty saw the match enter its final 8 or so minutes with just a point separating the teams – 22 – 21 as the Scarlets once again ensured that the faithful endured a nail-biting ending to the game.
As the penalty count against the home team became ridiculous, the slow clapping around Parc y Scarlets echoed as Halfpenny lined up his attempt that would put Toulon in the lead for the first time. The thunderous applause from behind the posts announced his miss as the touch judge’s flag remained lowered.
With a couple of minutes remaining Parc y Scarlets came to life as shouts of ‘Scarlets’ filled the ground, followed by ‘cheat’ as Halfpenny was again offered the chance to break the hearts of the Welsh Region with a long-range attempt from the half way line. Parc y Scarlets in unison got to their feet as once again Halfpenny lacked the distance, and it was with great relief that the ball was kicked off the park to record a massive historic win against Toulon.
Next week is the biggie – as the festive derbies see the Scarlets travel to the Liberty Stadium on Tuesday, 27th December to face the Ospreys. Kick-off is at 3pm.
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