The Champions couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season last week as they secured a bonus point win against Southern Kings in the opening game at Parc y Scarlets. However, it wasn’t just the all-important win, but it was a second half performance that sent a real buzz around the Parc. It was as close as anyone could expect to the form that won them the League in style last season.
With all the Welsh Regions on the road this weekend, and all facing heavy defeats prior to the Scarlets kicking off their round 2 match against Zebre, it was left to the men in red to attempt to avoid a Welsh whitewash in the Pro14.
Following the perfect conditions last week, a heavy thunder storm along with Parma experiencing rain for the first time in 3 months threatened to delay kick-off, however the decision was made to go ahead at the planned 8.35pm local time start.
It was the home team that opened the scoring with Carlo Canna kicking an early penalty from straight in front of the posts, to give his team an early lead, 3 points to 0. Rhys Priestland was soon given the opportunity to open his account to draw the scores level at 3 points all.
Last weekend’s Pro14 player of the round, Johnny McNicholl continued his electric form and added to his try tally with number 3 of the season thus far thanks to Tadhg Beirne turning the ball over at the breakdown. During the week, Head Coach, Wayne Pivac had stressed how important turning defence into attack has become from the team, with the Scarlets scoring 3 of last week’s try as a result of a turnover. Rhys Patchell added the conversion to give the visitors a 3 point to 10 advantage.
A great break from Patchell and superb juggling from Hadleigh Parkes saw Steff Evans cross for what he thought was the second try of the evening. Controversially, despite not losing the ball, the fact that Parkes was deemed not to have complete control was sufficient for the try to be disallowed due to a ‘knock-on.’
Rhys Patchell added another penalty as the game neared the half hour mark to increase the Scarlets’ lead to 10 points – 3 points to 13. Canna was offered the opportunity to double his tally, however despite having the distance, he didn’t have the accuracy and the score remained 3 – 13 at half time.
Conditions certainly ensured handling was almost impossible during the start of the second half as Zebre enjoyed their best period of play, even though they were unable to cause the Scarlets’ defence any real problems. Having been denied in the first half, Steff Evans galloped under the posts for the Scarlets’ second try of the evening as he gratefully gathered the kind bounce of Gareth Davies’ chip kick. Patchell maintained his 100% kicking record as he added the extras to increase his side’s lead to 3 points to 20.
Rhys Patchell’s cross kick led to try number three with replacement Paul Asquith securing his first Pro14 try, demonstrating his sevens skills to fend off the Italian defenders as he crossed the whitewash. Again, Patchell was successful with his simple conversion to give the Scarlets a commanding 3 points to 27 lead.
The bonus point finally came as Tadgh Beirne, who had been very impressive at the breakdown all night, powered his way over to ensure the Scarlets completed the first two rounds of the league with maximum points. Patchell was once more on target with the conversion to bring the score line to 3 points to 34.
Replacement Scrum Half, Aled Davies was on hand for Steff Evans’ pass before diving over under the posts for try number 5 as the visitors once again impressed despite the conditions. Again Rhys Patchell was successful with his conversion making it a perfect 7 from 7 to further increase the Scarlets’ lead to 3 points to 41.
There was some small consolation for the home supporters as replacement Mattia Bellini intercepted a pass from Scott Williams to score his side’s only try of the evening. Canna’s conversion put the Italians into double figures, 10 points to 41.
Despite the tricky conditions in rain-soaked Parma the Scarlets continued their strong start to their title defence as they became the only winning Welsh Region of the weekend, victorious by 41 points to 10. Two rounds, two bonus point wins sees them sitting pretty at the top of Conference B with a maximum 10 points.
Next Friday, the Scarlets face their first real challenge of the season as they travel to Belfast to face Ulster Rugby in the Kingspan Stadium. Kick off is at 7.35pm.
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