Scarlets hold on despite Connacht rally
March 30, 2014
Scarlets had to endure a Connacht comeback late in the second half before claiming a 32-30 bonus-point victory in a dramatic RaboDirect Pro12 contest at a sun-drenched Parc y Scarlets.
Replacement centre Gareth Maule claimed the bonus-point try a minute from time, squeezing under the posts. But that was after Scarlets saw a 25-11 lead shrink to 25-23 in the space of two minutes following tries by wing Fionn Carr and full-back Robbie Henshaw. And after Maule's score, Connacht managed to have the final say with a fourth try for Ewen McKeon to secure two bonus points.
Scarlets welcomed back Rhys Priestland for the first time since the RBS 6 Nations Championship and also included their other Wales stars Davies, Liam Williams, Ken Owens, Rhodri Jones and Jake Ball.
The Scarlets went cruised into a 7-0 lead inside two minutes through Wales centre Jonathan Davies. The move began after a quick tapped penalty in their own half by Priestland. Impressive wing Jordan Williams went on a 40-metre run before putting Davies over.
If the home fans thought it was going to be a try-fest in the warm spring sunshine they had to rethink as Connacht replied with two penalties on six and 21 minutes. But Scarlets gave themselves some breathing space three minutes later when Priestland struck a 40-metre penalty from in front of the posts. Priestland struck the post with a second penalty eight minutes from half-time as Scarlets took a 13-6 lead in to the break.
Four minutes into the second half Priestland had a chance to further improve his side's lead only to find the post again with his 35-metre attempt. Two minutes later Richard Kelly, who had replaced Ball at half-time, went over but the referee said the player was held up. After scoring the opening try Jonathan Davies was involved in the second as scrum-half Gareth Davies went over under the posts for his ninth try of the campaign. Priestland converted to take his side in to a 20-6 advantage.
Scarlets followed that with an incredible try started with Liam Williams in his own 22. Priestland and Kristian Phillips continued the counter attack finished off by Josh Turnbull. Scrum-half Kieran Marmion grabbed a try back for Connacht from a quick tapped penalty as the Irishmen reduced the deficit to 14 points at 25-11.
Connacht finished strongly and grabbed two tries in the space of three minutes. First Carr latched on to a chip from replacement outside-half Miah Nikora, who also converted to cut the deficit to seven points, and he was followed over by Henshaw. But Nikora could not convert which would have drawn the scores level.
In a dramatic finish Maule stretched over for the fourth try, but McKeon scored Connacht's fourth.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery
Monday Maul takes in retirement talk, England reshuffles, France's unfair advantage and Scotland's communication breakdown
John Griffiths takes an analytical look at Week 3 of ESPN Scrum's Fantasy Rugby game - who should you have picked?
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin