Scarlets beat Ospreys with late try
REPORT: Johnny McNicholl scored two tries in the final quarter to earn a 22-19 victory for the Scarlets over the Ospreys in a hard-fought Welsh derby in Llanelli.
It was the Scarlets’ first appearance on the field since October 22 and their resolve was rewarded with a match-winning try from McNicholl three minutes from time.
Gareth Davies and Steff Evans also scored tries for the Scarlets, with Dan Jones adding a conversion.
Rhys Webb touched down twice for the Ospreys either side of a Luke Morgan try, while Josh Thomas kicked two conversions, with the match played in an empty Parc y Scarlets due to current Welsh coronavirus restrictions.
Despite losing a couple of early line-outs, the Scarlets made the quicker start and deservedly took the lead.
The hosts built up a period of sustained pressure and Davies was on hand to dash over unopposed for a ninth-minute try.
However, the Scarlets suffered an injury blow when flanker Josh Macleod was forced to leave the field. It must have been demoralising for Macleod as it was his first game back since rupturing his Achilles back in February.
The home side suffered a further setback as the Ospreys drew level when Webb forced his way over from close range with a Thomas conversion making it 7-7 at the end of an evenly-contested first quarter.
Minutes later, the visitors should have taken the lead when excellent inter-passing put Dan Evans into space, but the fullback elected to go it alone and was held up over the line by Tom Price.
It mattered little as the Ospreys soon scored their second. A poor cross-field kick from Jones saw Thomas collect and boot the ball downfield for Morgan to show his pace by beating McNicholl and Jones to the touchdown for a 12-7 interval lead.
Three minutes after the restart, Jones missed a straightforward penalty and was soon replaced by Rhys Patchell.
Patchell was immediately involved in the move which created an overlap try for Steff Evans, but his conversion attempt rebounded back off a post.
Scarlets captain Scott Williams gave away a penalty for kicking out at a ball in a ruck. The Ospreys capitalised as they took a quick tap penalty to put the defence on the back foot before Webb saw a gap to score his second.
The Ospreys appeared to be in control, but the hosts broke out of defence to give McNicholl the opportunity to run in from halfway. Patchell again missed the conversion and a subsequent penalty.
The missed kicks might have proved costly, but the Scarlets got the reward their second-half domination deserved when McNicholl raced away for his second try to seal victory.
Player of the match
Ryan Elias was at the heart of a committed forward effort from his side as the Scarlets pulled off an impressive victory.
However, it was stand-in skipper Williams who was crowned URC Player of the Match for his own all-action contribution to the home side’s performance.
It was a second individual prize on the bounce for Williams, following his Player of the Match display against Benetton.
Play of the match
Morgan’s try put the Ospreys in front for the first time as his side capitalised on a mistake from Jones.
Jones’ cross-field kick was poor and it allowed Thomas to launch a speculative kick downfield for Morgan to show a clean pair of heels to the home defence.
Tries: G Davies, S Evans, McNicholl 2
Con: D Jones
Tries: Webb 2, L Morgan
Cons: J Thomas 2
Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Scott Williams (captain), 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Josh Macleod, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 Tom Price, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Harri O’Connor, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Daf Hughes, 17 Steff Thomas, 18 WillGriff John, 19 Aaron Shingler, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Tom Rogers.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Keelan Giles, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Josh Thomas, 9 Rhys Webb (captain) 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Jac Morgan, 6 Ethan Roots, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Will Griffiths, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Matthew Aubrey, 22 Joe Hawkins, 23 Keiran Williams.
Referee: Adam Jones
Assistant referees: Ben Breakspear & Rhys Jones
TMO: Sean Brickell