Scarlets join the winners' circle
MATCH REPORT: A Sam Hidalgo-Clyne try ensured Scarlets secured their first win in five matches in all competitions as their stunning run of form against Welsh rivals Dragons continued.
After losing their 27-month undefeated home record at the Parc y Scarlets last time out against Cardiff Blues, the hosts showed their grit despite a raft of injuries as an Ioan Nicholas try helped to clinch the spoils with a 22-13 win.
Dragons hadn’t won on their 11 previous visits to Llanelli and Dan Jones ensured their sorry run of away form against last year’s finalists continued, with four first-half penalties turning the screw.
Hooker Ken Owens was handed an unusual starting position at number eight, but his teammate Jones brought Scarlets ahead inside four minutes with a comfortable kick directly in front of the posts.
When Dan Suter, on only his second PRO14 start in five years, an error at the scrum, Jones took full advantage for Wayne Pivac’s side to notch up a 6-0 lead.
And after a prolonged period of dogged Dragons defending, the visitors were finally handed a shot at goal themselves and Lewis obliged to reduce the deficit.
Scarlets’ Rob Evans almost presented the hosts the first try of the match, but a determined tackle from Zane Kirchner proved just enough to hold the forward up on the line. However, an offside call in the build-up enabled Scarlets to come away with a penalty and Jones subsequently tucked it away.
Then when Suter again collapsed the scrum on the stroke of half-time, the prop was sin-binned, enabling Jones to kick for his fourth successful penalty of the evening to go 12-3 up.
Despite the man disadvantage, fly-half Lewis managed to bring his side back within the distance of a converted try, but that didn’t stop Scarlets from entering their ascendancy.
A line-out ten metres out was swiftly switched from left to right by the hosts and Nicholas found himself in acres of space and he duly slid across the whitewash for the first try.
Both sides rang the changes as they looked to make an impact with Ryan Elias entering for his 100th Scarlets appearance alongside Hidalgo-Clyne from the replacements bench.
The Scottish international made his impact immediately with a quick piece of thinking to tap and run before reaching over the try line to condemn the Dragons to a 39th successive away defeat.
A late consolation try from James Benjamin added some consolidation for the men from Gwent as Jason Tovey successfully converted.
Tries: Nicholas, Hidalgo-Clyne
Pens: Jones 4
Pens: Lewis 2
Yellow card: Suter (Dragons, 40)
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Ioan Nicholas, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Paul Asquith, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Ken Owens (captain), 7 Dan Davis, 6 Ed Kennedy, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Josh Helps, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Tom Price, 20 Tom Phillips, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Steff Hughes, 23 Tom Prydie.
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Adam Warren, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Josh Lewis, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Harrison Keddie, 7 Aaron Wainwright, 6 Cory Hill (captain), 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Brandon Nansen, 3 Dan Suter, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Aaron Jarvis.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Gerard Ellis, 18 Chris Coleman, 19 Joe Davies, 20 James Benjamin, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Zane Kirchner.
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Mike English (Wales)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)