Scarlets 18-10 Connacht
SCARLETS produced a hard-earned 18-10 victory over Connacht to give Brad Mooar a victorious Parc y Scarlets debut in the Guinness PRO14.
First-half tries from Steff Evans and Paul Asquith, combined with eight points from the boot of fly-half Dan Jones was enough to get the Championship season off to a winning start on a wet and windy West Wales evening.
The Scarlets’ victory was based on a dogged defensive effort led by back-rower and man-of-the-match Josh Macleod.
The Pembrokeshire openside also claimed some crucial turnover penalties, while full-back Johnny McNicholl provided the cutting edge from deep before a monsoon descended on Llanelli in the second half.
Missing 15 players at the Rugby World Cup, Mooar fielded 13 home-grown players in his match-day 23, including a number of the region’s emerging talent.
Ryan Conbeer looked lively out wide, Dan Jones and Kieran Hardy showed maturity beyond their years at half-back, while Tom Phillips put in a typical workaholic shift in the back-row.
Centre and captain Steff Hughes also led by example at the heart of the action.
After soaking up an early period of Connacht pressure, Scarlets struck for the game’s opening try after 19 minutes.
It was started by a break from McNicholl, Asquith went close before Evans pounced in the corner from short range.
The Scarlets extended their advantage six minutes before half-time.
An arcing run from that man McNicholl caused the alarm bells to ring in the visitors’ defence and then a superb dummy kick and pass from Hughes sent centre partner Asquith sliding in at the posts.
Jones’s conversion made it 12-0 before Connacht responded with a penalty through fly-half Conor Fitzgerald just before the break.
With the rain getting heavier and conditions deteriorating, the sides were finding it easier to play without the ball than with it and the Scarlets’ defence was in resilient mood.
Jones pushed the home side 15-3 ahead shortly after the restart, but a sustained period of pressure saw Connacht hit back when flanker Eoghan Masterson found his way over after a series of punishing drives.
Fitzgerald converted, but another Jones penalty moved the lead out to eight points and the Scarlets were able to see out the rest of the game for a morale-lifting triumph.
Scarlets’ next game sees them take on Glasgow on Friday (Oct 4) and they return to Parc Y Scarlets on Saturday (Oct 12) when they host Zebre.
Scarlets make five changes for European quarter-final
Johnny Williams and Sione Kalamafoni have been handed their Scarlets’ European debuts for Saturday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final against Toulon at the Stade Felix Mayol (8.15pm UK time).
Both summer signings are included in a side showing five changes to the line-up that took the field against the Dragons in the Scarlets last match of the Guinness PRO14 season.
Wales and British & Irish Lions full-back Leigh Halfpenny returns to face his former side, linking up with Johnny McNicholl and Steff Evans in an all-international back three.
Williams and Steff Hughes continue their midfield combination, while Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies has recovered from injury to partner Dan Jones at half-back.
Skipper Ken Owens, Wyn Jones and Samson Lee pack down in the front row and behind them Tongan international Sam Lousi starts at lock alongside Jake Ball.
In a reshuffled back-row, the PRO14’s turnover king Josh Macleod gets the nod at openside; Kalamafoni, who featured for Leicester Tigers in the pool stages of the tournament, wears the No. 8 jersey and Scotland international Blade Thomson has recovered from an Achilles issue to start at blindside.
On the bench, Ryan Elias, Phil Price and Javan Sebastian provide front-row cover with Lewis Rawlins and James Davies the other forward replacements. Kieran Hardy, Angus O’Brien and Tyler Morgan cover the backs. Morgan is set to make his first Scarlets appearance since joining from the Dragons.
The Scarlets and Toulon faced each other twice during the pool stages. A last-gasp converted try grabbed a 17-16 victory for the French side in November. The three-times European champions then claimed a crucial 27-15 win at Parc y Scarlets in January to ensure they topped the group.
Head coach Glenn Delaney said: “It is a final for us. If you win three finals in a row you win a trophy. We are that far away from achieving the objective we all set out upon 12 to 13 months ago. It would be lovely to finish it off the right way. Whenever you get the opportunity to play for a trophy you have got to be very respectful and take it deadly serious, which is exactly what our boys have been doing.”
Scarlets team v RC Toulon (Saturday, September 19, 2020; kick-off 8.15pm UK)
15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Steff Evans; 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ken Owens (capt), 3 Samson Lee, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Sam Lousi, 6 Blade Thomson, 7 Josh Macleod, 8 Sione Kalamafoni.
Reps: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Phil Price, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 James Davies, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Tyler Morgan.
Unavailable because of injury
Rob Evans (neck), Rhys Patchell (calf), Liam Williams (foot), Daf Hughes (knee), Steff Thomas (knee), Alex Jeffries (elbow), Tomi Lewis (knee), Aaron Shingler.
Pembrey Country Park to host one of first post-lockdown events
CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s Pembrey Country Park has been chosen to host one of the first outdoor sports events in Wales since the Covid-19 lockdown.
Welsh Government has given the go ahead for three trial sport and culture events as part of its continued easing of restrictions.
Pembrey Country Park will host a duathlon on Sunday, September 6, with a limited number of competitors, although there will be no spectators.
The event will be monitored and will help inform Welsh Government policy on future sporting events as the country continues its recovery from Covid-19.
The council is working with Welsh Triathlon to ensure athletes can compete safely, with strict risk assessments and protocols being put into place.
Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “We’re delighted to host this trial event here in Carmarthenshire, and hope this signals a return of more sporting events in the future. Our teams are working alongside Welsh Government and Welsh Triathlon to ensure that the event is safe and secure whilst providing an exciting and challenging duathlon course for competitors.”
Trundle and Robinson are back for another season with Ammanford AFC
Ammanford AFC are pleased to announce that the Ex Swans legends Lee Trundle and Andy Robinson are back for a second season with the club
The pair helped Ammanford AFC to achieve a respectable seventh place finish in the JD Cymru South league last season.
The Supporters of Ammanford will welcome the news and will be hoping that they can go and watch their team once clearance has been given.
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