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Leigh Halfpenny scores 16 points as Toulon overcome Scarlets

Toulon were made to work hard by Scarlets as they recorded a 31-20 bonus-point success to keep up the pressure on Saracens in Pool 3 of the European Champions Cup.

Mike Ford's side were heavy favourites to return to winning ways after being beaten by Saracens in their last home Champions Cup encounter and they did exactly that as Mamuka Gorgodze, Leigh Halfpenny and Romain Taofifenua all scored before the break.

Ken Owens responded for the Welsh side, but Guilhem Guirado scored Toulon's crucial fourth try at the start of the second half.

Wales full-back Halfpenny was inch-perfect from the tee with 11 points as the Scarlets returned home pointless despite John Barclay's late effort.

It didn't take long for the French giants to move ahead, their first try coming within five minutes after a powerful burst from Mathieu Bastareaud saw the giant centre break clear and, although he was stopped just short of the line, Gorgodze dived over from the next ruck.

Halfpenny converted and then exchanged penalties with Rhys Patchell to make it 10-3, but it was still Toulon who were the dominant force, especially at the contact area.

The Welsh side remained keen to move their opposition around the field though, spreading the ball wide at almost every opportunity and a second Patchell penalty narrowed the gap to four.

Toulon's lead was soon extended as yet another powerful Bastareaud carry allowed Halfpenny to sprint in and score and Taiofifenua reached for the line to add a third.

Halfpenny converted both tries and while Owens scored just before the break from close range, Toulon still turned around 24-13 ahead.

Home fly-half Pierre Bernard, an impressive figure in the first period, got the game restarted but it was the visitors who began the second half the better.

Hadleigh Parkes put the Scarlets on the front foot, before a floated pass from Scott Williams put Steffan Evans over in the corner.

But referee Alex Ruiz, via the TMO, decided Williams had knocked on before finding Evans and the score was ruled out. The decision looked touch and go, and it proved to be the crucial moment. Instead of scoring their second try, the Scarlets promptly conceded their fourth at the other end.

Guirado emerged from a huge line-out surge with the ball and when Halfpenny nailed the touchline conversion, the game was up.

Both sides rung the changes midway through the second period and the final quarter saw the game flow from end-to-end as the Scarlets refused to fold.

Wayne Pivac's men actually had more of the ball and Taiofifenua saw yellow for dragging down a maul, allowing Barclay to score what was in the end a late consolation.

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