Scarlets pile pressure on Munster
PRO14 REPORT: Scarlets kept up the pressure on Munster at the top of Conference B as flyhalf Dan Jones held his nerve to kick the winning penalty deep into the red.
An incredibly tight match saw Steff Evans sneak an opener and blows traded between two even teams until a late Tommaso Allan penalty made it 17-17, only for Jones to break Italian hearts with a far from easy penalty for a 20-17 win.
Scarlets got the opening score in comical fashion, as a hack through saw Benetton with several chances to gather the ball before Steff Evans slid in to touch the ball down at Jayden Hayward’s feet.
Jones converted but Benetton fly-half Allan responded with a penalty, before cutting the deficit to 7-6 with another.
The match see-sawed between the sides in the mid portion of the half but then exploded into life towards the end, as Jones kicked a penalty before incredible Benetton hands saw the ball flung wide to the right to allow Angelo Esposito to dart over down the flank.
Benetton led 11-10, extended by Allan to 14-10 for the interval, but after the break prop, Rob Evans intervened off the bench, winning a scrum penalty before burrowing over the tryline next to the posts.
Jones added the extras for a 17-14 lead and Scarlets attacked at all angles during the last quarter, with Benetton finding a variety of turnovers, penalties and big defensive hits to keep the hosts at bay.
The astonishing final quarter saw Scarlets dominate 83 percent of possession before Benetton finally got into the opposition half for the first time in an age, kick a penalty on 79 minutes only to suffer the late heartbreaker.
Man of the Match
Wing Steff Evans was a menace to the Benetton defence all night in west Wales.
All the way from his bizarre, sniping opener, Evans was busy throughout, beat five defenders and took a fine high-ball in the second half before dancing around defenders.
Play of the Day
Miss-passes everywhere, Esposito’s try was the perfect example of a team sucking in defenders before hitting the wings.
Attacking several phases deep into the Scarlets 22 the ball was popped out to Allan, with three more extended passes seeing the ball shipped to the waiting Esposito.
Tries: Evans, Evans
Cons: Jones 2
Pens: Jones 2
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Corey Baldwin, 13 Steff Hughes (captain), 12 Paul Asquith, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Josh Macleod, 6 Ed Kennedy, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Taylor Davies, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Juandre Kruger, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Kieron Fonotia.
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Benvenuti, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Nicola Quaglio.
Replacements: 16 Engjel Makelara, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Dean Budd, 21 Giovanni Pettinelli, 22 Dewaldt Duvenage, 23 Antonio Rizzi.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Stuart Gaffkin (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)