Brilliant Scarlets stun Harlequins in Heineken Cup thriller
By Robert Lloyd at The Stoop
HARLEQUINS 26 SCARLETS 33
HEAD coach Simon Easterby hailed a superb all-round performance as the Scarlets delivered one of their great Heineken Cup wins at The Stoop.
The West Walains stunned the former English champions with a display brimming with adventure and guts, typified by a match-winning tackle at the death by Liam Williams.
There were three brilliant tries – two of them stunning solo efforts from Scott and Jordan Williams - while the Scarlets also showed defiance in the closing minutes as Quins threw everything at them.
“I am just delighted with the way we went about our business and the character we showed at the end,” said Easterby.
“The players deserve a huge amount of credit. We knew Quins would come back at us, but we dug in and it was a fantastic result.
”There were multiple instances where players did some something special and you can’t pick out one player after that.”
The Scarlets had led 20-10 at half-time and were full value for their lead.
After soaking up early pressure, the visitors, buoyed by a vocal away support, struck first with the first of three superbly-crafted tries.
Wing Kristian Phillips found fly-half Rhys Priestland with an inside pass, the Wales fly-half then showed great pace before picking out his half-back partner Rhodri Williams bursting up on his inside for the score.
It was a try right out of the drawer and an indication that the Scarlets were coming to south west London to play.
Priestland converted then landed two further penalties as the visitors led 13-0 after just 15 minutes.
Shellshocked, the Quins started to put their game together and responded with an Evans penalty on 20 minutes.
It needed some outstanding defensive work from the lively Rhodri Williams to deny Quins their opening try in the corner, but it didn’t take long for the home crowd to finally find their voice.
A clever cross-kick from Evans bounced kindly for the home side and England full-back Mike Brown showed great pace to dive over at the posts.
Evans conversion narrowed the scores to 13-10, but then came Scott Williams’s moment of brilliance just before half-time.
Taking the ball inside his own half, the Wales centre beat the defensive line before dummying and turning on the afterburners for a wonder score.
Priestland landed the simple conversion as the Scarlets headed in at half-time with a real spring in their step.
Then came a moment of huge controversy, prop Samson Lee was spotted by referee John Lacey stamping on Quins scrum-half Danny Care.
He passed the incident to TMO Marshal Kilgore, who advised Lacey to award a yellow card when it could easily have been red.
A drop goal by Evans reduced the arrears, only for the 14 men of the Scarlets to win two penalties of their own; both converted into points by Priestland.
However, they were unable to shake off the Quins with Evans bringing the home side back to within sevens points with two more successes at goal.
Jordan Williams then lit up The Stoop with a stunning solo effort of his own.
Twisting out the initial tackle, the winger tip-toed the touchline before beating the final defender and diving over to send the Scarlets fans behind the posts into raptures.
Priestland converted, but back came Quins with a second try from the outstanding Brown.
That set up a nerve-wracking finale which saw the Scarlets again reduced to 14 men when replacement prop Rob Evans was sin-binned.
Replacement Steve Shingler missed a penalty to ease the pressure, then Liam Williams put his body on the line to deny replacement wing Paul Sackey in the corner.
The Scarlets still had work to do, but managed to hold on to celebrate another English scalp to go alongside Northampton and London Irish in recent years.