Jones leaves Scarlets on high
May 5, 2012
Stephen Jones ended his Scarlets career with a victory at Rodney Parade
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Stephen Jones was given a victorious send-off to his illustrious Scarlets career but a bonus-point 29-20 win over the Blues was not enough to secure the West Walians a place in the RaboDirect PRO12 play-offs.
Glasgow's win over Connacht denied the Scarlets their place in the top four, but they did everything they could to ensure Jones and the others who are leaving the region enjoyed a fitting farewell to Parc y Scarlets.
A fabulous contest was in the balance until the final minutes when the Scarlets claimed a penalty try, with the Blues playing their part with some superb rugby of their own. Double British Lion Jones will now head to Wasps, 16 years after making his debut for Llanelli.
A frantic opening saw the Blues claim the game's first try with just two minutes on the clock. Wales prop Gethin Jenkins claimed a superb turnover in midfield and a couple of slick passes put returning No.8 Andries Pretorious, playing his first game since November, on a free run from 35 metres out.
Sweeney converted, then opposite number Rhys Priestland responded with a penalty after concerted home pressure.
The Scarlets were enjoying plenty of possession, but the Blues were clearly in no mood to make up the numbers with flanker Josh Navidi making a nuisance of himself at the breakdown. It needed some brilliant last-ditch defence from lock Dominic Day and wing Sean Lamont to deny Blues speedster Harry Robinson on 16 minutes after the youngster had burst clear from inside his own half.
And it allowed the Scarlets to clear the lines and then take the lead soon after. The Blues were penalised for a dangerous tackle 60 metres out and in a flash, home scrum-half Gareth Davies was away. Davies' searing pace took him away from the cover and then around final defender Ceri Sweeney to touch down for a superb solo score.
Priestland converted, but despite enjoying the lion's share of possession, the Scarlets were unable to extend their lead before the break.
In carbon copy of the first half, the Blues were over for their second try, two minutes after the restart. Munster-bound Casey Laulala made the incisive break in midfield and good hands put Grand Slam winner Alex Cuthbert away in the corner.
It was the start of an amazing period of try-scoring to entertain one of the largest crowds of the season in Llanelli. Man-of-the-match Gareth Davies claimed his second try after some sublime off-loading in the tackle from backs and forwards, then the Blues hit back immediately with Robinson touching down after more superb handling.
Dan Parks, on for Sweeney, missed the conversion, but the Scot then made no mistake with a penalty as the Blues nudged in front again with 17 minutes remaining.
Jones left the field to a standing ovation from a crowd of more than 13,000, replaced by youngster Adam Warren.
The Scarlets proceeded to dominate the final minutes with fullback Liam Williams twisting over for the third try, before the home eight sealed the points by shoving the Blues back at a close-range scrum to claim the penalty try.
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