Scarlets celebrate stunning win at Harlequins
ANOTHER remarkable away-day English scalp for the Scarlets — for Scott Williams, another routine show-stopping try at Twickenham.
Just a stone's throw away from the home of English rugby, the Wales centre whose 'rip and go' score secured the 2012 Triple Crown, once again produced a moment of individual brilliance to light up a match that will live long in the memory.
"Twickenham has been kind to me," smiled Williams after the Scarlets had defied all the pre-match predictions to secure a stunning opening Pool 4 victory.
"We stayed in the Marriott in the Twickenham stadium the night before and it's the first time I've been back since that game so it was pretty hard not to think about it.
"But you can't keep living off it.
"I was just happy with my own performance and everyone else's."
Afterwards, head coach Simon Easterby admitted there were too many 'special' moments for him to pick out of a breathless encounter.
And it speak volumes for the quality of rugby produced when the Scarlets fans in the Twickenham bars hours after the final whistle were debating whether Williams's 50-metre solo score was the pick of the bunch.
"I just thought the players showed huge character, particularly at the end when we had a man in the bin," said Easterby.
"You couldn't pick out one player because everyone gave their all."
The Scarlets, of course, are no strangers to claiming prized scalps on their travels across the Severn.
Two years ago in Northampton they stunned Franklin's Gardens into silence with a game brimming with the same desire, endeavour and big-match magic.
On Saturday, it was The Stoop that was transformed into a small corner of West Wales.
An error-strewn Quins display did aid the Scarlets' cause, but the 600 or so travelling fans had every right to enjoy the moment, because this European win has been a long time coming.
Whitewashed last season, the Scarlets must have feared for more pain when their name was drawn out of the hat alongside the 2012 English champions and French heavyweights Racing Metro and Clermont Auvergne.
And while Easterby has been quick to ensure that feet remain planted on terra firma, he admitted that the tournament does, in the slogan of the sponsor, refresh parts others don't reach.
"The Heineken Cup is special, we had a chance to watch a game on TV in the hotel on Friday night, there was one going on before we played, just the whole feeling around the competition means you have to go up another level," he said.
"It was just great for the fans; there were times when it felt like a home game out there with that support behind the posts, it was fantastic.
"We know we didn't do ourselves justice last year, we did ourselves justice today.
"This is a fantastic start for us, but we also know it is one game out of six pool matches so we won't be getting carried away."
You can understand Easterby's caution, especially when you consider what lies in store for the rest of the pool.
But this win will restore huge faith among the Scarlets support — the manner of it, as much as the victory itself.
In the opening five weeks the Scarlets have coughed and spluttered their way through the Pro12 campaign with performances based on dollops of perspiration, with little in the way of sparkling inspiration.
At The Stoop, a side renowned for playing their rugby with a swagger, rediscovered their mojo.
The opening try by scrum-half Rhodri Williams could easily have taken lead billing on Sky's highlights reel, while those by Scott and Jordan are already contenders for individual tries of the tournament.
Arguably, though, it was the other Williams in the Scarlets back division, Liam, who produced the moment of greatest significance.
With just a couple of minutes left on the clock, the full-back, who had been trying to shake off an injury in the first half, hurled himself at replacement wing Paul Sackey to deny the former England man a try in the corner.
The conversion would have tied up the scores and would have been cruel on a Scarlets side who were more than deserving of the points.
They led 20-10 at half-time and could, and probably should have been further ahead.
Kristian Phillips and Rhys Priestland combined to send the lively Rhodri Williams haring over for the opening try and with Priestland in dead-eyed mood with the boot, the visitors asserted early control.
With Josh Turnbull and John Barclay nuisances at the breakdown and Aaron Shingler rampaging in the loose, the Scarlets were able to disrupt the home game — emphasised by the influential Danny Care being hauled off early in the piece.
But with England full-back Mike Brown proving a constant threat, the Quins were able to keep hanging onto the Scarlets' coat-tails.
It was Brown who latched onto a welcoming bounce from a clever cross-field kick by fly-half Nick Evans to bring the home side back into it, before Scott Williams produced his moment of magic with a show, dummy and burst of pace to take him to the posts.
The second half will be remembered for Jordan Williams's remarkable dance down the touchline for try number three, but it could easily have been for another piece of footwork from Samson Lee, who was yellow carded for dragging his studs across the face of Care on 42 minutes.
In the post-match inquest Quins boss Conor O'Shea insisted that it should have been red shown to the young Scarlets tight-head.
The watching Brian Moore, working for BBC radio, was of the same view.
It was a moment that could have swung the contest and while Easterby viewed the yellow as a fair call, the Scarlets will feel they dodged a bullet.
They also managed to fire a few shots themselves, winning the sin-bin period 6-3 thanks to two more Priestland penalties — one from an advancing scrum containing Scott Williams at blindside flanker.
Brown's second try and Rob Evans's yellow card ensured a nervy finale, but the Scarlets dug deep to claim another Anglo-European scalp to sit alongside those achieved in Northampton and London Irish in recent years.
The key for the Scarlets is to back up the win against the stellar squad of Racing at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday.
The ground has been a subdued venue this season, but if the players can deliver the same attacking intent and the fans transfer the passion and volume of the Stoop, then what odds the Scarlets becoming Welsh rugby's European standard bearers again?