IN A high-intensity game at The Rec, Scarlets dug deep to claim a thrilling Champions Cup victory over Bath Rugby.
Throughout a tense Pool A encounter, there was little between the two sides with Scarlets scoring a try in each half through scrum-halves Gareth Davies – on his 200th appearance – and Kieran Hardy.
Both teams had their chances to win but in the end, the spoils and the famous old ragdoll headed to West Wales.
Bath got on the board first with Ben Spencer striking home shot from the kicking tee.
While Bath applied early pressure, the Scarlets broke the shackles in spectacular fashion.
Leigh Halfpenny broke the defensive line to offload to Scarlets skipper Steff Evans. The winger broke through the cover defence to link with scrum-half Gareth Davies on the inside line.
The Wales scrum-half still had work to do but jinked past the final defender to cross near the posts. Halfpenny added the extras, and shortly afterwards he missed a long-range effort to put the Scarlets further ahead.
The Scarlets lost Wales’ international forwards Jake Ball and Samson Lee to head injury assessments. Morgan Jones and Javan Sebastian replaced the duo.
It took 18 minutes of continuous pressure and knocking on the door of the Scarlets’ try-line before the hosts retook the lead.
A lovely piece of interplay began from No. 8, Zach Mercer. The ball was smartly shipped in contact before Sam Underhill found Ruaridh McConnochie, who dotted down in the corner. Spencer missed the conversion.
Bath then earned a scrum penalty after several warnings to the Scarlets’ front row. Spencer slotted home the three points to give Bath a four-point lead.
On 32 minutes the Welsh region got to within a point of Bath Rugby with a Halfpenny penalty. Just three minutes later, Spencer re-established the four-point gap as the hosts were awarded a penalty, which the nine converted with ease.
14-10 down at the break, the Scarlets would’ve been disappointed at the length of time they spent on the back foot and getting sucked into a physical confrontation with the rugged home eight.
It was only six minutes into the second period when the hosts were pinged for offside, allowing. Halfpenny to strike his penalty through the uprights from close range.
Bath piled the pressure on Scarlets with a lot of possession and territory, but they were unable to make that pressure pay off until the 53rd minute.
The hosts got their reward through Will Stuart, who crashed over to score in his first appearance of the season for the Blue, Black and White.
Josh Macleod replaced Jac Morgan, who enjoyed another outstanding game, and made an immediate impact with a turnover, while the experience of Jon Davies also proved crucial off the bench.
Scarlets kept plugging away and saw their hard work rewarded on 64 minutes.
Dan Jones combined with Rob Evans, who produced a sublime off-load to put Hardy away under the posts for a score converted by Halfpenny.
With one point in it, both sides had chances.
Hardy just failed to find Evans on his outside with the line beckoning, while Bath’s route-one approach came against a brick-wall defence.
A Halfpenny penalty gave the Scarlets a four-point cushion going into the final minutes, but Bath stole the kick-off before pounding away at the visitors’ line.
In the 78th minute, Bath crossed the whitewash, only to have the ball held up over the line following a crunching effort from Leigh Halfpenny to deny the home team a score.
But a try would be enough for the hosts to take the game.
As the clock struck red, Bath continued to pile on the pressure with continuous and relentless forward phases. As Spencer stretched his arm out towards the line, Morgan Jones steamed into the tackle.
It was the last play of the game.
With hearts in their mouths, Scarlets players waited for the TMO’s decision and reacted joyfully when the TMO ruled out the last gasp effort.
Glenn Delaney lauded the incredible never-say-die defensive effort that saw the Scarlets hang on for an outstanding 23-19 Heineken Champions Cup win over Bath at The Rec.
“That match had something for everyone didn’t it?” said a relieved Delaney afterwards.
“We had a chance to score just before those final minutes and then the commitment and effort at the end were massive. We were under so much pressure. That was about character. For me, it was epitomised by Gareth Davies. “The boys wanted to play for him on his 200th and it was really special the way they finished it off to get the job done for him.”
Reflecting on the tense end to the game, Glenn Delaney said: “Those final minutes were all about commitment and heart. There were bits about the defence in the first half I wasn’t so happy with, I was frustrated we weren’t as aggressive as we would have liked, but that character comes through in the big moments. These are big-game players. We are learning as a group what it is like to be in this contest and that was a big European game for us.
“It is a big step forward, we will enjoy it and get ready for Toulon next week.”
Delaney added: “In the second half I thought we moved the ball a little wider on the edge. We never go that going in the first half and we were pretty harsh on ourselves at half-time. That try in the middle of the field, Rob Evans’s pass to put Kieran away was outstanding. That is the game we wanted to play. We wanted to move Bath around.
“We knew we couldn’t go at Bath square-on because they are big and physical and are good players. We had to move them around, we saw a bit of the Scarlets way coming out and the DNA of the club, the boys are happy to be taking the ragdoll home.”
Trimsaran secure top spot
TRIMSARAN secured top spot in WRU Bowl Group G2 as they beat Furnace United 18-15 on Saturday (Oct 9).
A big crowd showed up at Caeffair for the top of the pool clash between the two sides and they were not disappointed.
Furnace kicked the game off and from the start it was the cherries who were in the ascendancy and were rewarded with an early shot at goal to make it 3-0 to the visitors.
Furnace were forcing Trim into mistakes and taking advantage of their ill-discipline. They were rewarded with another shot at goal which was missed. It was turning out to be a typical local derby game with both teams cancelling each other out for much of the first half.
The Trimsaran pack started to outmuscle the visiting pack at the set piece as the game approached the last 10 minutes of the first half and they were awarded a kickable penalty which outside half Corey Phillips converted to draw Trim level.
With half time approaching Trimsaran number 8 burst through the Furnace defence after some sustained pressure in Furnace territory and found second row Lee Thomas outside him who touched down with a superb long arm stretch to score the games’ first try. With the conversion missed it was 8-3 to the home team at half time.
Trimsaran kicked off a dramatic second half. Seven minutes into the second half Furnace were applying some pressure in the Trimsaran 22 when suddenly the referee in charge blew his whistle and halted play.
To the surprise of everyone in attendance he red carded Trimsaran second row and tryscorer Lee Thomas. This handed Furnace a numerical advantage early in the second half but some brilliant defence from Trim kept the cherries at bay.
10 minutes later Furnace finally had their first try of the game to even up the scoreboard at 8-8.
It only took a further 5 minutes for Furnace to retake the lead after a great finish from their Full back Myles Harries after a break down the right wing by Furnace before spreading the ball in the field of Play for Myles to touchdown.
With a man advantage it seemed Furnace were going to make it count. 5 minutes later Furnace were shown a yellow card after a dump tackle. This evened the game up and with the penalty Trim kicked to the touchline and drove their way over from a maul with prop Iwan Green emerging the try scorer. The conversion was successful and once again we were all level at 15-15.
With 12 minutes to go both teams would have fancied their chances at getting within range and securing a win.
Trim kept their tails up and with some good play and a great break they got themselves up to kicking range. Furnace give the penalty away for offside and outside half Corey Phillips kept his nerve to give Trim the lead 18-15 with 5 minutes to go.
Trim were looking to control the final stages of the game and see it out but got penalised just inside their half and Furnace attempted a penalty which fell just short to equalise the game.
With 3 minutes left there was a scuffle near the halfway line and the referee again brought his red card out and give it to Trimsaran number 8 Steff Roberts in which seemed to be a case of mistaken identity as he was accused of striking an opponent but it didn’t appear to be him.
This gave Furnace one last chance to steal the victory from Trim. Some brave defence from the lineout from the home team looked to have turned the ball over but another pen was awarded to Furnace who kicked their way into the 22 and with a 2 man advantage fancied their chances to snatch victory. Trim competed well in the lineout though and forced a knock on from the cherries and with it a loud roar of delight from the vocal home support.
A fantastic Derby game played out by both teams which sees Trim secure top spot in group G2 with one game to spare.
That game takes place this weekend when Trimsaran welcome New Dock Stars to Caeffair on Saturday (Oct 16).
Burry Port Reserves hold off Seaside
BURRY PORT Reserves closed the gap to second placed Seaside Reserves on Saturday (Oct 9) as they beat them 2-1.
The home side took the lead early on when Dean Thomas scored a penalty after 12 minutes.
Seaside hit back though and were level on 39 minutes when Nathan Lewis found the back of the net.
It remained 1-1 at half time but 13 minutes into the second half, Burry Port regained the lead.
Ioan Williams, who had only come on to the pitch a minute earlier, scored the goal which would ultimately prove to be the winner.
It earned Burry Port a third straight win in Carmarthenshire AFL Reserve Division 1 and they now sit three points behind Seaside.
Other results in the Division on Saturday saw leaders Loughor Reserves thrash Drefach reserves 7-1 while Gorseinon Athletic Reserves beat Trallwm Reserves 4-1.
Pontlliw Reserves were also 4-0 winners away at Killay Reserves.
On Saturday, October 16, Burry Port will look for another win as they take on Gorseinon while second plays first as Seaside host Loughor.
PHOTO BY DARREN HARRIES
Kidwelly edge past Burry Port
KIDWELLY beat Burry Port by just two points on Saturday (Oct 9) as they took ownership of the Lewi Jones Cup.
The Cup is played for in memory of Lewi Jones and is up for grabs when the holder meets another competing club.
A big crowd gathered for the game in Burry Port and they witnessed two good sides give their all for the win.
It was Kidwelly though who eventually came out on top winning by 11 points to 9.
Captain James Owens scored two penalties for Kidwelly while the crucial try was scored in the corner by Luke Thomas.
The Blacks scored three penalties but will take a losing bonus point for their efforts.
As well as winning the Lewi Jones cup for the first time, Kidwelly also move to within two points of the Blacks in WRU Plate Group G1.
On Saturday, October 16, Kidwelly are in action again as they host Llanelli Wanderers.
Burry Port are next in action the following weekend (Oct 23) when they travel to Felinfoel.
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