SCARLETS HANG ON TO CLINCH IMPORTANT ULSTER WIN
By Helen ‘Helzbach’ Davies
It was a damp and dismal welcome that awaited the faithful few that braved the elements as the Scarlets’ Pro12 campaign continued against Ulster.
The Scarlets were offered a dream start as Dan Jones charged down an Ulster kick, using his speed and the conditions to cross for what looked like the first try of the evening, however, to the annoyance of the crowd, the TMO deemed the ball had been lost forward and Ulster were awarded a Scrum V.
It was the home team that got the opening points on the board though, as Dan Jones made no mistake with his penalty attempt after Ulster were deemed to be off-side to give his side a 3 point to 0 lead. He was able to repeat the feat minutes later to increase the lead to 6 points to 0.
Ulster’s Outside Half Paddy Jackson added a penalty of his own to open Ulster’s scoring, bringing the score line to 6 points to 3 as the visitors seemed to move up a gear with the rugby being played mainly in the Scarlets half. It wasn’t long before the Ulster backs managed to find a gaping hole in the Scarlets’ defence with Jacob Stockdale crossing under the posts for the game’s first try. Jackson added the conversion to give the Irish Province a 6 points to 10 advantage.
As conditions deteriorated, so did the standard of play as handling became almost impossible and with half time approaching Ulster remained in control, though they failed to make any real ground.
As half time approached, Ulster were offered the opportunity to further increase their lead, much to the disgust of the Scarlets faithful. Again, Jackson was successful with the boot to give a half time score of 6 – 13 to Ulster.
The second half continued in very much the same vein until the Scarlets began to put together some phases and ask questions of the Ulster defence in the Ulster 22. Referee Marius Mitrea finally penalised the visitors for off-side and Captain Ken Owens opted an attempt at the posts. Dan Jones added to his tally and brought the Scarlets back within a try of taking the lead – 9 points to 13.
The strength of the Scarlets forwards finally saw them drive into the Ulster 22, before Aled Davies wriggled his way over. Initially, the referee deemed that he’d been held up, but the crowd’s reaction forced him to reassess using the big screen and sense prevailed as a penalty try was awarded to the home team and Ulster were down to 14 men for a high tackle on Davies, even though in reality, this was nothing more than a good, try saving tackle! As the game reached the hour mark this saw the Scarlets back in the lead, 16 points to 13.
Unfortunately, the Scarlets were unable to take advantage of their extra man as Jake Ball was sin-binned seconds later for a high tackle, despite the evidence showing that there was nothing wrong with the tackle! Despite the pressure, the Scarlets managed to hold on for a tough end to clinch an important victory in their quest for a top 4 finish this season to win the match 16 points to 13.
Next weekend it’s back to Champions’ Cup action for the Scarlets. Saracens are the visitors to Parc y Scarlets next Sunday afternoon, kick off is at 1pm.
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