Scarlets Extend Unbeaten Home Run With Bonus Point Win

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It was back to Pro14 action this weekend for the Scarlets as they faced Ulster for the first of three times in the matter of four weeks.
Ulster currently sit in second in Conference B, with the Scarlets just a point behind in third place, but this fixture not only had the added incentive of possibly ending a current three match losing streak, but a Scarlets’ win would see them unbeaten in the League for 26 matches, equally Leinster’s second place, but Leinster’s current record of 29 matches is surely there for the taking this season.
The good news was that Tom Prydie and Lewis Rawlins were both fit, whilst Blade Thomson has been given time out to recover from his head knock in Edinburgh and will not feature for a few weeks. It was planned to give him a break as he joined straight after the Super Rugby season.
Josh Macleod is also side-lined after suffering a stress fracture in his foot during the Kings game and will be out for around a month. Also out for a few weeks is Prop, Samson Lee who was released from the Welsh Camp to continue his rehabilitation on a hamstring injury.
Looking ahead to the game, Head Coach, Wayne Pivac insisted “Our focus is now on ourselves, it’s really about spending as much time focusing on our game and being as accurate as we can.”
He added, “we’ve got a proud record at home and it’s an opportunity for us to get more points to throw us back in to the second spot in our conference which is where we want to be.”
Despite there being a severe lack of rugby in Parc y Scarlets in recent weeks, it was a relatively poor crowd that welcomed the teams onto the pitch, led by skipper, Will Boyde, probably due to the clash with Llanelli Carnival and Christmas Light switch on.
An early penalty put Ulster in a good attacking position in the Scarlets’ half, however whilst the Scarlets managed to win back the possession, neither team were able to penetrate any defensive lines during the opening minutes.
A clever grubber kick from Johnny McNicholl offered the home team a good attacking line-out in the Ulster 22 which looked like an opportunity to get points on the board, but the Scarlets were penalised for holding on and Ulster were back in control.
A break from Wing Speight saw him off-load to Scrum Half, Dave Shanahan who crossed unopposed for the opening try. Billy Burns added the conversion to give the visitors an early 0 points to 7 lead.
Dan Jones was able to ensure that the Scarlets hit back immediately with a well struck penalty from in front of the posts, just as the wind decided to pick up. This narrowed the visitor’s lead to 3 points to 7.
A try scoring opportunity for the Scarlets was thwarted when the ball was lost forward, but Ulster kicked away their advantage and the home side opted to take the ball quickly and decided to kick for the corner rather than take an easy three points.
They were rewarded for their bravery as the forwards inched closer to the whitewash before Prop, Werner Kruger powered over from close range. Dan Jones added the simple conversion to put the home team ahead for the first time, 10 points to 7.
Superb hands from Hooker, Marc Jones who broke from the base of the maul saw him off-load to Kieran Hardy, who sprinted for the line, but was just unable to get the ball down before being bundled into touch.
The Scarlets appeared to have scored their second try after kicking to the corner once more, with Paul Asquith throwing a dummy before diving over under the posts. The try was awarded, up stepped Dan Jones to take the conversion, and then TMO Tim Hayes stepped in as he believed there was obstruction and the try was disallowed.
The home team were given a second bite of the cherry as they drove off the line-out, with the forwards inching closer, but it was Hardy who dummied and managed to get over the white wash. Dan Jones added the conversion to extend the Scarlets’ lead to 17 points to 7.
As forty minutes approached on the clock, the Scarlets finished the half in quite spectacular style following a break from Cassiem. The handling was sublime before Keiron Fonotia cut back inside to score try number three. Dan Jones was just wide with the conversion as the Scarlets ran in for the half time break leading by 22 points to 7.
The dominance of the Scarlets continued into the second half, with Johnny McNicholl close to setting up try number four, however he was unable to get his pass away. A second attempt at securing the bonus point was also disallowed as Werner Kruger was deemed to have been held up over the line, offering the home team an attacking scrum.
As the Scarlets’ dominance continued, the discipline of the Ulster team saw them gave away a series of penalties and were very fortunate to remain at full quota following a neck roll on McNicholl that referee Immelman deemed was just a penalty.
It took an hour, but the Scarlets finally secured the bonus point as they spread the ball wide and found Tom Prydie who dived over in the corner. Dan Jones continued his success with the boot by adding the conversion to extend the Scarlets’ lead to 29 points to 7.
With all the work gone in to scoring the try, the Scarlet were left napping as the visitors found themselves in the Scarlet’s half for the first time in the second half. After securing the ball at the line-out they drove towards the Scarlet’s try line with replacement Jonny Stewart crossing the white wash. Michael Lowry’s conversion attempt was wide as the visitors narrowed the Scarlets’ lead to 29 points to 12.
The Scarlets seemed content to play the clock down for the final minutes, safe in the knowledge that the full five points were in the bag, however, they would probably have preferred to have not been playing the match out in their own 22 as Ulster attempted to score a consolation try, but gave away a penalty and the Scarlets were victorious by 29 points to 12.

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