European Rugby made a return to Parc y Scarlets as the Scarlets welcomed Bath for the second round of this season’s Champions’ Cup campaign.
Despite picking up an important losing point on the road in Toulon last week, the home team will be hoping to keep up their winning ways in fortress Parc y Scarlets against a Bath team with rather a Welsh flavor to it, including former Scarlet Rhys Priestland.
In contrast, Bath were victors in their opening round fixture at home against Benetton by 23 points to 0 and will be eager to maintain their momentum.
Priestland is the in-form Outside Half in the English Premiership at the moment and is no stranger to Parc y Scarlets having played 157 games for the Scarlets, scoring a total of 1,102 points in the process.
His opposite number, the other Rhys P. Rhys Patchell is another strong contender for the Number 10 jersey in the Autumn Internationals and their battle will certainly add an extra spice to the game.
Bath demonstrated their intent right from the kick-off with Number 8, Taulupe Faletau powering down the wing to put his team in a strong attacking position. Despite strong defensive work from the Scarlets, Bath were rewarded for their efforts with a short-range penalty from Rhys Priestland to give the visitors an early 0 points to 3 lead.
This lead was short-lived, however, with Leigh Halfpenny cancelling out Priestland’s efforts to draw the score at 3 points all.
However, from the restart Hadleigh Parkes was penalised for holding on, offering Priestland another simple shot at goal to give Bath a 3 point to 6 lead.
An error from Bath Wing Aled Brew who had a foot in touch, offered the Scarlets a strong attacking position as the home team defied the atrocious weather conditions with some sublime handling before a break from Gareth Davies and a flick pass to Steffan Evans saw the Wing dive in for the first try of the evening. Halfpenny added the extras to give the Scarlets 10 points to 6 lead.
As weather conditions deteriorated Priestland added another penalty to bring Bath back to within a point – 9 points to 10.
Following another lengthy period of advantage played by referee Romain Poite, Rhys Priestland slotted over his fourth successful kick of the evening to put his side back in the lead – 10 points to 12 as the first half drew to a close.
Fortunately, the start of the second half saw a slight improvement in the weather conditions as the Scarlets returned to the pitch in attacking mode. However, the let-up in the weather didn’t last and with Rhys Priestland gathering a loose ball, the visitor’s think he has scored a try, but the TMO ruled that Priestland didn’t have control of the ball over the line and the try was disallowed.
Bath were rewarded for the pressure they put on the Scarlets with another kickable penalty for Priestland, who certainly seemed to be winning his personal battle with Rhys Patchell. Priestland made no mistake with the simple kick to give Bath a 5-point cushion – 10 points to 15, leaving the Scarlets just over25 minutes in which to keep their Champions’ Cup hopes alive.
As the game edged towards the final 10 minutes, Rhys Priestland’s sixth successful penalty put Bath ahead by 10 points to 18, putting his team two scores ahead.
With time running out for the home team, Leigh Halfpenny kicked a penalty to give the Scarlets their first points of the half – 13 points to 18, however, it was Bath who were heading towards the last few minutes in control both in possession and territory as the Parc y Scarlets ‘faithful’ began leaving the stands.
Priestland’s penalty attempt from the half way line was supposed to be the final nail in the coffin of his old team, however, his kick sailing wide offered the Scarlets a chance to counter-attack.
It was a case of too little, too late though unfortunately as possibly the dreadful weather conditions coupled with the 5 day turn around proved too much for the Pro12 Champions as they have to settle for a second losing bonus point whilst Bath notch up an important away win as man of the match, Rhys Priestland effectively ended the Scarlets’ European hopes for this season. If they do progress in this competition, then they will have to do it the hard way now and, win all their remaining games.
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