IMPRESSIVE SCARLETS SECURE BONUS POINT AGAINST TOP OF THE TABLE LEINSTER
By Helen ‘Helzbach’ Davies
Following a two week break for the Anglo-Welsh Competiton, League action returns for the next two weeks before the long-awaited game against Toulon on Sunday, December 18th for the home fixture of the back-to-back Champions Cup games.
Tonight’s opponents, Leinster, currently hold the top spot with just one loss this season. In comparison, the Scarlets lie in sixth position, but a win would see them climb the table should the home team take full advantage of the several absences in the Leinster team due to the Autumn Internationals.
The main talking point pre-match was the debut of exciting New Zealand Wing Johnny McNicholl who finally arrived in Llanelli a couple of weeks ago after completeing his season back at home. It took him just over 7 minutes to get his first try for his new club, to the rapturous applause of the crowd. An easy conversion for Patchell gave the home team an early 7 point to 0 lead.
Leinster typically aimed to reply with an immediate try of their own and if it hadn’t been for the butter fingers of Hooker Strauss, they would have been successful in their quest. However, a late tackle on Patchell offered the Scarlets a great attacking position deep in the Leinster half.
A combined effort from the frowards resulted in a second push-over try for the Welsh Region, with Werner Kruger claiming his first in a Scarlets jersey. Patchell added the tricky touch-line conversion to double to Scarlets’ lead to 14 points to 0.
A penalty from Full Back and Captain Isa Nacewa put Leinster on the score board…14 points to 3, but for the majority of the first half the Scarlets were well and truly in control.
With just over half an hour played, the Scarlets got their third try, working through several phases before Wing Steffan Evans squeezed through to claim the touchdown. Patchell again made no mistake with the conversion and with half time looming they had built up a 21 point to 3 lead with a whole half of rugby to gain a try bonus point…something that has alluded them in previous weeks.
The fourth try almost came before half time with Evans offered a clear run-in, if only he had managed to catch the pass! Unfortunately, it was Leinster that scored the next try as Hooker Richard Strauss strolled over in the corner. The missed conversion gave the Scarlets a lead of 21 points to 8 at half time.
The second half couldn’t have started any worse for the visitors as Wing Barry Daly was shown the red card for a dangerous tip tackle. Moments later Number 8 Will Boyde gave his team a bonus point as he crossed in the corner for the Scarlets’ fourth try. Patchell again continued his very impressive kicking performance adding the conversion to put the home team ahead 28 points to 8.
Opting to kick for the corner rather than taking an easy three points saw the Scarlets rewarded with the scoring of try number 5 scored by Hooker Ryan Elias who had certainly taken his opportunity with Ken Owens away on International duty. Patchell’s conversion further extended the Welsh Region’s lead to 35 points to 8.
Leinster showed typical Irish spirit by not giving up and scored a try in immediate reply with Adam Byrne crossing the whitewash unopposed. Nacewa added the conversion to slightly narrow the gap to 35 points to 15.
They added a third try shortly after with replacemen Tom Daly ‘diving’ over the line!!!! Nacewa added the conversion to bring the scoreline to 35 points to 22 with just over 20 minutes remaining.
Despite a commanding lead, it seems that the large number of replacements had affected the flow of the Scarlets game as Leinster again tested the Scarlets defence.
However, the home team soon regained posession and were back in the Leinster half. They were rewarded for their attacking adventure with a penalty attempt for off-side and on this occasion opted to take the points. Replacement Dan Jones continued the men in red’s 100% kicking record to increase his team’s lead to 38 points to 22 and it seemed that the Scarlets were intent on ending the game on a high note as they continued with the high- tempo, exciting style of play that they have establised over the last few games.
With full time just a matter of seconds away, Leinster pressed hard for their bonus point try, inching ever closer to the Scarlets’ try line before the TMO was left to decide whether they had managed to score a fourth try to gain a try bonus point. Despite the evidence being undecisive, the try was awarded to give a final score of 38 points to 29.
Next Saturday, the Scarlets travel to Italy to play Zebre, kick-off is at 2.05pm local time.
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