Leigh Halfpenny missed two late penalties as the Scarlets held on to secure a famous 22-21 home victory over the three-times champions Toulon. Halfpenny kicked seven penalties but crucially was wayward with four other attempts – two in each half.
The , Wales’s only representative in the competition, had led from the 11th minute when Rhys Patchell, who supplied 17 points with the boot, kicked a penalty, with Scott Williams scoring the only try of the match in the first half. Toulon, who had the replacement Florian Fresia sent to the sin bin, had to settle for a losing bonus point as they went down to their second defeat in Pool 3.
“It was a very satisfying win, but very nerve-wracking in that second half,” said the Scarlets head coach, Wayne Pivac. “We did everything we wanted to do in the first half, we created scoring opportunities. We ran them around and I thought they [Toulon] were blowing a bit. We don’t get opportunities to play a side like , with their experience and history, too often. I am just glad for them that they got something out of it. It would have been pretty cruel if we had lost it at the death.”
Elsewhere, Clermont Auvergne resisted a second-half fightback from Ulster to claim a 38-19 triumph at Stade Marcel Michelin. A double in the first half from Nick Abendanon and Isaiah Toeava’s first-minute score had Clermont cruising to victory. Camille Lopez scored the bonus-point try after half-time before Ulster hinted at a stunning comeback.
Tommy Bowe crossed twice to add to Franco van der Merwe’s drive-over score, but a late penalty try ended hopes of a losing bonus point. Ulster will now need to win both of their remaining matches, against Bordeaux-Begles and Exeter, to stand any chance of qualifying for the last eight.
“The damage was done in the first half, we knew we had to come here and start well and keep the ball for long periods of time and frustrate them,” said the Ulster captain, Rory Best. “We are massively disappointed to come away with nothing. We expected to win, we prepared well and we knew if we did the things we talked about all week, we had a good chance.”
Abendanon’s first-half double gave Clermont the springboard to seize control of Pool 5. And the English full-back believes this could finally be Clermont’s time after falling short on two occasions. He said: “We say this could be the year every year, but as long as we keep working hard and keep bringing the intensity and physicality we showed today, then why not. We know we have the squad to get to get to a final and I’m sure if we get there, then this can be our year.”
Castres, meanwhile, revived their hopes of qualifying from Pool 4 with a 29-23 victory over the current Challenge Cup holders Montpellier. They made pay for their indiscipline when Paul Willemse became their second player in a fortnight to be shown a red card after tries from Akapusi Qera, Jesse Mogg and Nemani Nadolo had put them in sight of victory. The dismissal for a shoulder charge then led to Castres’ Alexander Bias scoring the winning try, after they had remained in contention from Horacio Agulla’s earlier score and 19 points from Benjamin Urdapilleta’s boot.