European Champions Cup: Toulon 31-20 Scarlets

Leigh Halfpenny
Leigh Halfpenny scored a first-half try for Toulon against Scarlets
Toulon (24) 31
Tries: Gorgodze, Halfpenny, Taofifenua, Guirado Cons: Halfpenny (4) Pens: Halfpenny
Scarlets (13) 20
Tries: Owens, Barclay Cons: Patchell (2) Pens: Patchell (2)

Toulon outmuscled Scarlets as they moved clear in second place in Pool Three of the Champions Cup.

The hosts smashed their way to an 11-point interval lead with tries by Mamuka Gorgodze, Leigh Halfpenny and Romain Taofifenua.

Toulon survived two TMO decisions early in the second half before Guilhem Guirado secured the bonus point.

Ken Owens and John Barclay scored for Scarlets with Wales international Halfpenny claiming 16 points.

Scarlets struggled to handle Toulon's power, with France international centre Mathieu Bastareaud crashing through would-be tacklers as he set up the opening two tries.

The win lifts three-times champions Toulon to nine points in the pool, five behind defending champions Saracens.

Scarlets started well, but kicked attacking possession away and from their first attack Toulon set the tone for the game with giant centre Bastareaud crashing through to set up Gorgodze.

The Bastareaud battering ram again laid waste to the defence before Halfpenny strolled over on the left and within two minutes Taofifenua appeared to end the match as a contest as he stretched out a long left arm to claim Toulon's third try.

Scarlets hit back when hooker Owens charged over from close range after a fluid move.

The Welsh region came out fired-up for the second half with scrum-half Gareth Davies denied a try after television replays, even though Toulon's Jocelino Suta appeared to tackle him illegally.

Moments later, wing Steff Evans crossed wide out only to have the try disallowed when Scott Williams was adjudged to have knocked the ball on in the build-up - again after the television match official had a look.

Ken Owens scores for Scarlets
Ken Owen scored Scarlets' opening try

Toulon weathered the storm, and when Guirado touched down after a powerful drive the contest was over, with Barclay's late try briefly raising hopes of a losing bonus point for the Scarlets.

'It was a fair try'

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac: "There was a massive swing in the game at 24-13 and I thought the [Steff Evans'] try was a fair try. I asked the referee afterwards 'how far backwards does the ball have to travel for you to award a knock-on'.

"I thought it was a good try and if it's awarded at 24-20 we're in the game. As it turned out there was a couple of errors that left them to get in with a try. Clearly a player is tackled on the ground and he's allowed to get up and carry on - there's a few things I wasn't happy with."

What's next in Pool Three

The teams do it all again at Parc y Scarlets on Sunday, 18 December (13:00 GMT).

Toulon: Leigh Halfpenny; James O'Connor, Mathieu Bastareaud, Ma'a Nonu, Bryan Habana; Pierre Bernard, Jonathan Pelissie; Xavier Chiocci, Guilhem Guirado, Marcel van der Merwe, Jocelino Suta, Romain Taofifenua, Charles Ollivon, Mamuka Gorgodze, Samu Manoa.

Replacements: Jean-Charles Orioli, Laurent Delboulbès, Levan Chilachava, Juandre Kruger, Maxime Mermoz, Jimmy Yobo, Eric Escande, Duane Vermeulen.

Scarlets: Liam Williams; DTH van der Merwe, Hadleigh Parkes, Scott Williams, Steff Evans; Rhys Patchell, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens (capt), Werner Kruger, Jake Ball, Tom Price, Tadhg Beirne, James Davies, John Barclay.

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rob Evans, Samson Lee, Lewis Rawlins, Will Boyde, Jonathan Evans, Aled Thomas, Gareth Owen

Referee: Greg Garner (England)

Assistant referees: Luke Pearce and Nigel Carrick (Both England)

Television match official: Rowan Kitt (England)

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