Scarlets edge Blues to go top
PRO14 REPORT: Scarlets produced a battling performance to edge Welsh rivals Cardiff Blues 16-14 on their own turf and leapfrog Munster – who lost at Ulster – at the top of the Conference B table.
The two sides were separated by only four points before the start of play, but a solitary try from Gareth Davies, and 11 points from Leigh Halfpenny’s boot, proved enough at Arms Park.
Blues were handed the first opportunity to get on the scoreboard, but Jarrod Evans kicked wide of the sticks early on.
Scarlets’ Halfpenny made no mistake with his first opportunity however, duly nudging the visitors in front in the eighth minute.
Halfpenny doubled Scarlets’ advantage with his boot after an infringement at the line-out, but Blues responded with a period of sustained pressure and resolute defending from Brad Mooar’s men proved just enough to deny them an opening try.
But John Mulvihill’s men kept plugging away and were rewarded in the 24th minute when Owen Lane finished off a brilliant kick-and-chase effort, which Evans duly converted to put the home side in front.
Scarlets responded immediately though, as Davies expertly intercepted an Evans pass before evading the entire Blues defence to dot down and restore the 2016/17 champions’ lead.
Halfpenny stretched Scarlets’ advantage with three points in the dying moments of the first period, but Blues were first to strike in the second 40 as Josh Adams went over to reduce their deficit to 16-14 with 15 minutes remaining.
As the clock ticked down, Blues enjoyed plenty of possession, but Scarlets held firm to notch their seventh win of the season despite not scoring in the second half.
Man of the match – Tevita Ratuva
Steff Evans was great in attack and Leigh Halfpenny’s boot was invaluable, but 24-year-old Ratuva stood up to be counted in a tightly-fought encounter.
Contributing at both ends of the pitch, the Fiji international was outstanding in defence and with the ball in hand, helping his side to a crucial victory.
Play of the Day
Owen Lane’s first-half try deserves a mention for a perfectly-executed kick-and-chase after Hallam Amos’ outrageous offload, but Gareth Davies’ reply moments later was a glorious solo effort.
The 29-year-old tracked Evans’ sloppy pass before showcasing his burning pace to beat the Blues defence and provide Scarlets with the perfect response to going behind.
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Lane, Adams
Cons: Evans, Tovey
Pens: Halfpenny 3
Cardiff Blues: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Will Boyde, 6 Josh Navidi (captain), 5 Josh Turnbull, 4 Filo Paulo, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 James Ratti, 20 Olly Robinson, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Matthew Morgan.
Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Ryan Conbeer, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Josh Macleod, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Tevita Ratuva, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ken Owens (captain), 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Phil Price, 17 Ryan Elias, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Blade Thomson, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Paul Asquith.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Report by @PRO14Official