Clermont dismantle off-colour Scarlets
Scarlets 13 Clermont Auvergne 31
It rained in west Wales yesterday, hardly a meteorological first, but what poured down from a sepia sky condemned the home team to a heavy day of scrummaging.
Chained thus to the set piece, the Scarlets looked a different crew from the one that ran with sparkle in the opening round away at Harlequins. In short they were battered by the French, who left with the match points and a try bonus.
There was a gift at the start, a spillage of the ball that allowed Thierry Lacrampe to slot a kick straight to his wing, Napolioni Nalaga.
Mike Delany, a one-cap All Black, landed the conversion.
Then came a moment of generosity the other way, referee Wayne Barnes showing Aurelien Rougerie a yellow card for throwing an insignificant punch at Scott Williams. Rhys Priestland landed the penalty and then, with mere seconds left on the 10-minute countdown to Rougerie's return, the Scarlets ran a penalty and crossed for their try.
It meant the home team led at half-time, and when Brock James fluffed his first two attempts, it looked as if there might be an escape route. But then James put a kick into the corner and there began a cruel series of scrums, that ended inevitably with a penalty try.
The torture continued, the squeeze tightening, with the French rushing the Welsh into errors. Scott Williams had a kick charged down by Nathan Hines and Fritz Lee dropped over from close range. From another scrum, No 8 Damien Chouly worked a move, feeding Nalaga for the Fijian's second try, his team's fourth.
With all the rowing going on internally in Wales, it was predictable that the leaders of the French Top 14 would be too strong. This was a gloomy occasion, the pre-match chat doom-laden. And the rain dampened spirits. Barnes blew the legs out of an overpowered Scarlets scrum.
The French underlined just what serious contenders they are for the Heineken Cup.
Scorers -- Scarlets: G Maule try, R Priestland con, 2 pens. Clermont: N Nalaga 2 tries, F Lee try, Penalty try, M Delany con, pen, B James 3 cons.
Scarlets: L Williams; N Reynolds, G Maule, S Williams, J Williams; R Priestland, G Davies (R Williams 68); P John (R Evans 60), K Owens (E Phillips 68), S Lee (R Jones 68); J Ball (R Kelly 60), G Earle; J Turnbull (J Snyman 71), J Barclay, R McCusker.
Clermont: J-M Buttin; S Sivivatu, A Rougerie (S Nakataci 74), R King, N Nalaga; M Delany (B James 47), T Lacrampe (L Radosavljevic 22); T Domingo (R Chaume 68), B Kayser (V Debaty 64), C Ric (T Paulo 64); J Cudmore (N Hines 60), J Pierre; J Bonnaire, J Bardy (F Lee 50), D Chouly.
Referee: W Barnes (England).