THE SCARLETS maintained their unbeaten record at Parc y Scarlets in style with a stunning win over reigning Pro12 champions and three-time European champions Leinster. In the process they closed the gap on sixth place Connaught to just three points, with just five games remaining in the race for automatic qualification for next year’s Champions Cup, as the Irish side were controversial last gasp losers at Cardiff Arms Park on the previous night.
An entertaining first half saw some classy backline play from both sides, with former All Black Regan King, making his 100th league appearance for the Scarlets, impressing with his slight of hand and creative vision and Leinsters’ own Kiwi Ben Ta’o showing his power and pace to break the home sides defensive line on more than one occasion.
King wasn’t alone in producing a display of real class for the Scarlets. Back rowers John Barclay and James Davies also put in big performances. Experienced Scotland international Barclay showed his powerful running and guile at the turnover whilst 24 year old Davies, younger sibling of current international and former Scarlet Jonathan Davies, put in a man of the match display. Davies is enjoying his breakthrough season on the regional stage and if he can produce more performances like this one, Warren Gatland will be watching with keen eyes.
The Scarlets took the lead as Steven Shingler notched a penalty following good running from Wales centre Scott Williams, who was released from international duty for the game. This lead didn’t last for long after a needless penalty was given away near halfway by the home side. Flyhalf Gopperth did the honours, striking the ball to touch to give Leinster a line-out opportunity on the Scarlets 22. A training ground move was enough to undo the otherwise water tight Scarlets defence as hooker Sean Cronin received the ball from Mike McCarthy and drove around the back of the line-out. Quickly recycled ball created space for the lethal Ta’o who slid inside Scott Williams and brushed off the desperate last-ditch tackle of Parkes to score his first try for the club. Gopperth added the extras and also notched a penalty to give the visitors a 10-3 lead.
On the 30 minute mark the Scarlets turned on the style as Regan King unlocked the Leinster backline and sent marauding back-row Barclay into the corner for the the first Scarlets score. Although Shingler couldn’t add the extras from the touchline, the home side went in at half time just 2 points behind in what had been an enthralling forty minutes.
The second half began with another burst from powerhouse centre Ben Ta’o, but sensing a second try he was stopped in his tracks by a superb covering tackle from the ever-present James Davies. Barclay was able to turnover possession and after a number of phases the Scarlets produced the try of the game. King again was the creator, drawing South African fullback Zane Kirchner to put Jordan Williams in under the posts. Shingler added the easy extras and the Scarlets had a lead they never looked like relinquishing even when Leinster added a penalty to bring the score to 15-13.
The Scarlets put the game to bed as Barclay and Davies combined again to create the games final try. Barclay tackled and Davies turned over to give replacement back-row Rory Pitman the chance to brush off Gopperth and crash over. The try went unconverted but Priestland made amends by putting the game beyond doubt with a late penalty to give the Scarlets a well deserved and crucial home win, to the delight of man of the match James Davies.
“It was a massive win for us. We talked about it all week; this block of four against Irish teams has been tough. We looked at this one as probably one of the biggest – at home and wanting to keep our unbeaten record.”
Davies went on to say: “The defence was outstanding. The boys worked tremendously hard and it all came down to good attitude. We’re so pleased with the win.”
Scarlets return to Guinness Pro12 action on Saturday March 28 as they take on Edinburgh Rugby at Parc y Scarlets, kick-off 2.40pm.
SCARLETS: Jordan Williams; Harry Robinson, Regan King, Scott Williams, Hadleigh Parkes; Steven Shingler, Aled Davies; Phil John, Ken Owens (capt), Peter Edwards, George Earle, Johan Snyman, Lewis Rawlins, James Davies, John Barclay.
REPLACEMENTS: Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Jacobie Adriaanse, Jack Payne, Rory Pitman, Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland, Adam Warren
LEINSTER: Zane Kirchner; Fergus McFadden; Ben Te’o; Gordon D’Arcy; Luke Fitzgerald; Jimmy Gopperth; Eoin Reddan: Cian Healy; Sean Cronin; Martin Moore; Mike McCarthy; Kane Douglas; Rhys Ruddock; Dominic Ryan; Jack Conan.
REPLACEMENTS: Michael Bent; Richardt Strauss; Tadhg Furlong; Tom Denton; Isaac Boss; Noel Reid; Dave Kearney.
Raiders seal first ever win
West Wales Raiders 44
Coventry Bears 16
Lucas Marshall, Stebonheath Park,
A LATE rally by Coventry Bears was not enough to deny a jubilant West Wales Raiders their first-ever win at the 45th time of asking.
The old South Wales Ironmen tasted victory against Gloucestershire All Golds in the first match played at Stebonheath Park back in July 2017, but never before have the side won under the Raiders banner. And it was certainly worth the wait as the Raiders dominated much of the game against a Bears side that doesn’t have the best record when travelling to South Wales. The other game the Ironmen won in 2017 was against Coventry, whilst the Bears only won by 10 points at Llanelli last season.
Dewi Billingham made his Coventry debut while trialist Zak Williams made his first appearance since returning to the Bears. But both former Raiders stars were unable to come back to haunt their former employers.
Much of the damage was done in the first half with the Raiders taking control from the kick-off and eventually going in 20-0 up at the break.
It took only six minutes for Raiders to break the Bears defence when good work down the left put Dalton Desmond-Walker in for the opener. Phil Cowburn added the extras but was off target just moments later after Ash Bateman was on the end of some quick passing to go in on the right.
When Morgan Evans went in for the Raiders third, again converted by Cowburn, their loyal band of supporters started to believe they were on course for victory.
It could have been even worse for the Bears, but strong defence saw them hold the visitors up over the line on three occasions mid-way through the half. Although there was no denying Archie Snook with one of the final plays of the half after Welsh International Steve Parry had split the Bears defence to put the centre through. Cowburn once again failed with the conversion but the Raiders still celebrated their most positive 40 minutes in almost two years.
After the break, it was the Bears who struck first through Reece Rance, but any hopes of a comeback were soon extinguished by three quick-fire tries.
First, former Bears player Mitch Shaw scooted over, before Bateman and Snook both got their second try of the afternoon to all but secure the victory for the Llanelli-based outfit.
Parry then went in for the Raiders’ eighth try of the day to put the icing on a long-awaited cake.
But the Bears were by no means done and added two further tries of their own to make the scoreline look a little less dominate than the game suggested.
Tries from Errol Carter and South Wales youth system graduate Cobi Green, along with two Joe Sanderson conversions rounded off the scoring for the visitors.
Dafen see off Porthcawl
DAFEN Seconds earned their sixth win of the season on Saturday (Jul 6) as they beat Porthcawl by 75 runs.
Porthcawl won the toss and elected to field and they were able to bowl Dafen out for 182.
Opener Oliver Evans made a score of 19 and Chris Randell scored 25 as a number of Dafen batsmen made good starts.
Jonathan Griffiths scored 22 and there were also scores of 15 from Tom Lavender and 16 from Luke Dunning.
Matthew Thomas made a late score of 18 while Andrew Randell top scored with 43 runs.
Nicholas Morgan was the pick of the bowlers with three wickets for the loss of 30 runs from his 6.3 overs.
Mark Bevan also bowled well to finish with figures of 3-37.
That set Porthcawl 138 to win but they lost a number of batsmen for single figure scores as they struggled to put runs on the board.
Andrew Randell had Nicholas Morgan caught by Jac Morgan and Matthew Thomas had Rhodri Phillips caught by Chris Randell.
Chris Richards made a score of 13 before he was bowled by Rhys Marchant who then also bowled Rob Warren and had David Lewis caught by Chris Randell, both for ducks.
Tim Richards also fell for a duck when he was caught off the bowling of Matthew Thomas.
Mark Lewis had scored 25 but he also fell to the bowling of Marchant.
Steffan Flood also scored 25 before he was bowled by Chris Randell and Joshua Aubrey added 20 late on before he also fell to the bowling of Randell.
That meant that Porthcawl were all out for 107, giving Dafen seconds an excellent win.
On Saturday (Jul 13), Dafen seconds are away to local rivals Llanelli seconds.
Rees century sees Llanelli to win
LLANELLI’s Iwan Rees scored a century on Saturday (Jul 6) to help his side to victory over Briton Ferry Steel.
Briton Ferry won the toss and elected to bat but they were restricted to 186-8 in their innings.
Steven Devonald struck early on to remove Evan Hynes but Lloyd Clement and Jamie Griffiths shared 44 runs for the second wicket.
Jac Rees had Griffiths caught by Craig Howells on a score of 24 and soon after Craig Evans was bowled by Aled Gilley for a duck.
Clement had made a score of 41 but when he was bowled by Rees, the Steel found themselves on 81-4.
That soon became 88-5 as Steve Maddock was caught by Marcus Leaf off the bowling of Gilley.
Iwan Rees then had Steffan Evans caught by Howells and Rhys Norgrove fell in similar fashion.
Jason Hughes and Thomas Williams shared 56 runs for the eighth wicket as they looked to give their side a total to defend.
On the last ball Williams was caught by Rees off the bowling of Gilley on a score of 24 which left Hughes not out on 67.
Llanelli openers Iwan Rees and Ioan Phillips shared 42 runs for the first wicket before Phillips was caught by Rhys Norgrove off the bowling of Jay Webb.
That was as good as it got for the Steel though as they were unable to claim any further wickets.
Craig Howells hit seven fours as he finished unbeaten on 53 while Rees starred with 14 fours to finish unbeaten on 104.
The win gives Llanelli 19 points and keeps them third in the table. On Saturday (Jul 13), they travel to local rivals Dafen.
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