Thomas inspires Scarlets' triumph
January 29, 2012
Scarlets winger Viliami Iongi celebrates his late try against London Irish © Getty Images
Scarlets head coach Nigel Davies revealed how a good luck message from prop Rhys Thomas helped inspire his young side to an impressive 27-19 Anglo-Welsh Cup victory over London Irish at Parc y Scarlets.
Thomas is in a comfortable condition in hospital having undergone heart surgery after being taken ill at training on Thursday. Members of the Scarlets management have been to visit the Wales international as he recovers, and Davies told of how the 29-year-old wanted to wish his team-mates the best before they went on to claim a win that sees them close in on a first semi-final place since the inaugural Anglo-Welsh tournament during the 2005-06 season.
Davies, whose side were shorn of 11 internationals preparing for Six Nations duty, said: "It's been a tough few days. I went to see Rhys before the game and he is not great, he is recovering but he did say to wish the boys all the best, and I passed that on to the boys, and they certainly delivered for him."
And Davies felt the display ranked as the best squad performance of his tenure. "This game and last week's win in Castres have been fantastic squad efforts and show the depth we have and how that's building," he said. "That was as strong a team as Irish could put out and we showed a lot of resilience and spirit, and when opportunities came we took them. That was the best squad performance that we have been able to put out, going back maybe to even a long time before I was here."
London Irish coach Toby Booth said: "That was frustrating, we had the ball for long periods in the right areas, we had two TMO decisions go against us, not that I'm saying they were the wrong decisions, but shows we have been in good positions and that proved the difference. You have to convert when you get there and we were probably guilty of not doing that."
Gloucester coach Bryan Redpath declared himself "chuffed" with his patched-up side as they beat Cardiff 40-3 to keep alive their hopes of retaining the trophy. "We are chuffed with the result," he said. "We had 12 changes from last week's starting line-up against Toulouse. There was an element of mix and match and we didn't get the balance right in the first half but all credit to the Blues for battling hard with a much under strength side."
Two splendid individual tries from James Simpson-Daniel emphasised the home side's superiority. "Since the announcement of the England squad Sinbad (Simpson-Daniel) has got better. He is strong and compact and if ever England needed a man on form he will always be there for them."
For Cardiff, this was their third consecutive defeat in the competition which has so far failed to see them pick up a single point. One of the plusses for Cardiff was the successful return of Blair after a 15 month injury lay-off. And he said: "I thought a few times my career was over but I felt really good out there. My aim is to get back into the starting line-up but today it was very difficult as their scrum and lineout was very strong and we had no ball at all in the second half."
Director of rugby Sir Ian McGeechan confessed the intricacies of the qualification system are beyond him, but his Bath side all but made sure of a home semi-final with a 46-14 win over Northampton. Astonishingly, Bath have scored 46 points in each of their three LV= games, running in five tries against the Saints who, despite the loss, remained in the mix themselves.
"Even when their big guns came on I thought our bench was really effective," said McGeechan. "We've said all along, it's not that we're not playing pretty decent rugby, it's just that we've not finished off and not been so good execution-wise. We weren't 100% today but the big thing was the attitude right through the team and that counts for a lot.
"We still want to make a big impact in the Premiership. We know we've got to work hard there but there are still a lot of things to play for. We've played well in the LV, using the youngsters and also for getting other players back from injury."
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder said: "We had our chances. The scrum was very good, with a young front row. We're disappointed with today but enthused about this tournament."
On his decision to rest some of his frontline players, even beyond those required by England, he added: "We can't just keep playing some players week in, week out."
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter conceded he was frustrated not to pick up a bonus point as his much-changed side hammered Wasps 30-16 at Adams Park. Despite a dominant display which included three tries from David Ewers, Myles Dorrian and Ally Muldowney, the Chiefs were unable to take maximum points, although their semi-final hopes remained alive.
Baxter said: "Any win against Premiership opposition is a good one, but we're a little disappointed that we couldn't force through the bonus point. But at the same time, we've come here with a completely different team, scored three tries and before their score at the end looked like we weren't going to concede any."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton
Cards, kicks, slips and scores: It's The Week in Pictures, the finest snaps from the last seven days of rugby
Huw Richards Rewinds to 1975 when three Welsh legends were handed their debuts and assesses their legacy
Seven places in the Champions Cup quarter-finals are up for grabs; we break down the permutations for each group in the final round of matches