Leinster 33 Scarlets 14
FOR a snapshot of the Heineken Cup fortunes of these two sides this season, the post-match press conference on Saturday evening at the RDS painted a vivid picture.
In one corner of the room stood Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt, circled by a throng of reporters, going through the permutations and results required for his defending champions to make the knockout stages once again.
Ten yards away was his Scarlets counterpart Simon Easterby, talking about the effort, guts and commitment of his men, but also displaying the frustration of another heavy defeat.
"It is where we are at, unfortunately," conceded Easterby.
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"There was a huge amount of effort out there for little reward, really.
"I can't fault the players, there was commitment and desire and they ran themselves to a standstill.
"But we have to make better decisions and be more accurate in our execution.
"That is the biggest disappointment for me. We wanted to show more than we have in this competition and we feel, rightly or wrongly, that there is more in us as a team.
"My job is to get more out of us."
While they remain a side struggling to compete with the heavyweights of European rugby, Easterby and his players could at least keep their heads held high as they flew back across the Irish Sea yesterday.
At times a tsunami of blue attacks threatened to sweep them away under a deluge of tries, yet somehow they managed to avoid sinking without trace.
Many of the 200 or so fans who had travelled to Dublin had feared the worst from a patched-up side low on confidence in the wake of morale-sapping losses to the Ospreys and Ulster.
And with a full-strength Leinster desperate for a big win to maintain their hopes of keeping their grip on the trophy they have held for three of the last four seasons, this was always going to be a huge test of the character of Easterby's men.
At the end of what Schmidt later described as a punishing contest, nobody was questioning that character.
The post-match stats showed the Scarlets registered close to 200 tackles.
"It felt like a lot, lot more," was the verdict of skipper Rob McCusker.
"It is tough when you have to get up off the floor and go again and go again, like we did in defence and it was a huge effort that we didn't buckle like we did in the last 10 minutes against Ulster last weekend," added Easterby.
"Leinster came out and started as we expected them to.
"They broke the back of the game in the first half, but at 19-11 we felt we could put the pressure back on them with another score, but they scored straight after half-time and that took the game away from us.
"We showed glimpses at the end of the first half of how we can pressurise teams, but the best teams do it consistently and for sustained periods which we aren't able to do."
The stark reality of this defeat is that the Scarlets are facing only a second pool whitewash in the history of the tournament with pool winners Clermont arriving at Parc y Scarlets next weekend intent on nailing down a quarter-final tie at their Stade Marcel Michelin fortress.
It has been a campaign to forget for the three-times semi-finalist with the early promise shown out in Clermont having counted for little.
On Saturday at the RDS, the contrast in quality was stark.
The Scarlets were missing Wales internationals George North, Rhys Priestland and Aaron Shingler, with another Grand Slam winner Jonathan Davies starting on the bench.
Leinster fielded a starting line-up containing 14 Ireland internationals, including four British Lions, and a Fijian cap.
They were also more than a passing resemblance to the side who had demolished Ulster in the final at Twickenham last May.
The message of intent was delivered early with Leinster running the ball from deep and turning down kickable penalties in favour of attacking line-outs.
Two of those decisions produced tries for the wrecking ball that is prop Cian Healy and flanker Shane Jennings, while wing Luke Fitzgerald helped himself to another to decorate a man-of-the-match display from the returning Lion.
Yet, the Scarlets were still in the match at the break thanks to a penalty from fly-half Aled Thomas, a smart drop-goal from Liam Williams and a well-worked try from the full-back on the stroke of half-time.
With the forwards carrying strongly into the heart of the home defence, Scott Williams produced a deft cross-field kick which cleared Leinster's defensive line and landed into the safe hands of the Scarlets No. 15.
But that was a rare moment of attacking nous from a Scarlets side who struggled to match the hosts for invention and fluency.
With Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton pulling the strings with his trademark loops and inside passes, questions were constantly asked of the Scarlets defence.
And the fact that Leinster only managed two tries, through full-back Rob Kearney and replacement Ian Madigan, in the second half was testament to the visitors' resolve.
Second row George Earle put in a staggering 22 tackles, while Tongan Sione Timani was not far behind.
Timani, drafted in as a late replacement for the ill Kieran Murphy, was a revelation.
Devin Toner, Fitzgerald and a couple of others were jolted back by some South Seas specials, while Timani also carried with purpose, making more yards than any other Scarlet forward.
Elsewhere, Josh Turnbull put in a typical workaholic shift in the back row, while Easterby will be heartened by the way the set-piece improved markedly in the second period.
Crumbs of comfort, maybe, but these are tough times for the former Ireland flanker as he attempts to negotiate a brutal run of fixtures.
That ends on Saturday when tournament favourites Clermont roll into town.
And to borrow that time-honoured sporting cliché, he can then concentrate on the league.
Easterby has vowed that his men will fight to the end in an attempt to salvage something from their European campaign.
With injuries continuing to hit hard and the French side in irresistible form, it won't be for faint hearted.
These are testing times indeed.