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A bird's eye view from the terrace: The thing about Llanelli

Llanelli is always the best supported away trip for Leinster in the Magners league outside of the inter-pros. At this stage it has almost reached cult status. The funny thing about this though is that the origin of some of the recent travelling support lies at a match when Leinster weren't playing! The Heineken cup 2005/2006 was the second year in a row that Leinster were drawn in the same pool as Bath. Having done all the touristy things in Bath on a long weekend the previous season, a group of fans decided to get the train down to Llanelli on the Saturday to watch them take on Trevor Brennan's Toulouse.

Our arrival caused equal parts bemusement and amusement. As we made our way from the train station to Stradey Park some weren't quite sure who we were. Definitely neither Toulouse nor Scarlets and with Bank of Scotland on our jerseys... Others wondered what we were doing there as Leinster had played Scarlets two weeks previous - must have been some session!! Trevor Brennan was definitely in the bemused camp. He was holding tackle bags for his team's warm-up as we arrived at the ground. His double take as we walked past nearly cost him dearly as a team mate ploughed into him.

The match itself was hugely enjoyable - for a neutral that is. Scarlets had the dream start with a try in the first minute. The sides exchanged penalties before Vincent Clerc brought the sides level at 10 all. Scarlets went ahead with a penalty but it didn't last long as Toulouse scored their second try. The high scoring fixture continued in the same vein with a penalty and try for Scarlets and two tries for Toulouse giving them a bonus point in the bag and a half time lead of 23-29.

The second half picked up where the first left off with the teams exchanging tries. Clerc scored his third, followed by Regan King and Clerc's fourth was followed by Dwayne Peel leaving the scores 37 to 49 with 10 minutes to go. The gap was closed further with another Scarlets try in injury time but Toulouse held on for a very tense final few minutes. The final score was five tries to six, 42-49.

After the match we found the stadium bar and mixed with the Scarlets fans. As the bar began to empty out some supporters invited us to join them in a pub just down the road - the by now (in)famous Kilkenny Cat. We were made very welcome - the landlady even ducking upstairs to change into her Leinster fleece. Easily led astray we almost missed the last train to Bath - although floors were offered so we wouldn't have been stuck. We did make it back however, and the next day we witnessed a great victory from the boys in blue, earning them a now famous trip to Toulouse. Scarlets stalwarts had told us that they just didn't get away fans as they were so difficult to get to and we had promised to return with reinforcements for the Celtic league the following year. We did, in a tale of trains planes and automobiles, but that's for another day...

Quite simply we discovered what every Leinster fan who had been there before us already knew and what everyone who has travelled there since has found - Llanelli is a great rugby town with great rugby people. This Friday night will be a cracking match in Park Y Scarlets and though we can't guarantee a result we can guarantee that there will be some craic in the Cat after. Weather permitting we'll be there.

by Yvonne Kelly, © 2010-12-02

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