Sergio Parisse scored the try that broke the hearts of the Scarlets and condemned them to yet another defeat in Toulon as they fell to a third defeat on French soil in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup.
The Italian great had seen a try in the first half chalked off because of an earlier forward pass, but there was no denying him when he popped up on the end of a five-man raid launched by replacement Louis Carbonel in the 56th minute to give the home side the lead for the first time.
The 11-6 victory earned Toulon a home clash with Leicester in the semi-finals after the English side’s quarter-final with Castres Olympique was cancelled due to three French players testing positive for Covid-19. That earned the Tigers a bye in the last four.
Skipper Ken Owens led by example for the Scarlets as he secured a breakdown turnover in the third minute to give Leigh Halfpenny a shot at goal against his former club from a metre inside the home half.
He hit the target and that was one of only two scores in a tight yet absorbing first half.
Toulon threw the kitchen sink at their visitors and it looked as though full-back Daniel Ikpefan had to score in the 14th minute until his opposite number Halfpenny felled him with a fantastic tackle to bring him down a few metres short.
It looked as though Toulon had conjured up the first try of the night 10 minutes later when Jake Ball lost the ball on the charge and Parisse flipped the loose ball between his legs to find Ikpefan in his own 22.
The full-back went charging up field and launched a move that saw lock Swan Rebbadj, flanker Charles Ollivon carry on before Parisse arrived to finish off over the Scarlets’ line.
Referee Andrew Brace signalled a try, but the French TMO alerted him to a forward pass in the build up and the score was ruled out.
That was a huge relief for the visitors, who enjoyed a purple patch at the end of the first half.
Romain Taofifenua took out Gareth Davies off the ball and up stepped Halfpenny to double the lead with a simple 30-metre kick. Baptiste Serin missed from 45 metres shortly afterwards for Toulon.
That meant the Scarlets led 6-0 at the break and they could have stretched their advantage three minutes into the second half when Halfpenny was given a 40-metre shot for a deliberate knock-on.
However, this time he let his old team-mates off the hook.
Carbonel got Toulon on the board with a 53rd-minute penalty and then added another in the 70th minute after inspiring the Parisse try.
The Scarlets lost Halfpenny to an head injury assessment late in the game and then saw Wales wing Johnny McNicholl pick up a bad ankle injury.
They almost snatched a late try from a driving line-out but Tyler Morgan lost the ball as he went over the line.
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