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Scarlets see off Cardiff for first win of the season

MATCH REPORT: Scarlets claimed their first victory of the United Rugby Championship season with a nail-biting 31-25 win over Cardiff.

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Not only that, they scored four tries to earn a bonus point and won the bragging rights from a highly entertaining Welsh regional derby against a Cardiff side that had beaten them on their own patch last season.

Wales World Cup scrumhalf Gareth Davies, who was leading his home region for the first time in his illustrious career, was the star of the game as he scored one try and made another in a second-half performance from the home side that turned the game on its head.

Cardiff drew first blood with a fourth-minute try from scrumhalf Ellis Bevan that had its origins in a lovely break from Wales U20 fullback Cameron Winnett. Ellis’s halfback partner Tinus De Beer added the extras.

The hosts hit back quickly when centre Eddie James got Scarlets over the gain-line to allow new second-row recruit Alex Craig to power over from short range for a try that Ioan Lloyd improved.

Cardiff held the upper hand physically, with their front row annihilating the Scarlets scrum to begin with, and referee Adam Jones was forced to show a yellow card to home loosehead Kemsley Mathias for collapsing the scrum.

Cardiff made the most of their numerical advantage when discarded Wales prop Rhys Carre showed his strength to force his way over the line for a try.

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De Beer added the extra two points and the visitors looked in complete control. But then Scarlets managed to find a way to break out of their own half and, completely against the run of play, Johnny McNicholl sliced through to notch his 45th URC try.

Lloyd’s touchline conversion meant it all was all-square at 14-14 at the break. Cardiff’s forward dominance fell away in the second half and that allowed Davies to take centre stage, scoring one and making another for No.8 Vaea Fifita with a great blindside break from a scrum.

Theo Cabango’s 70-metre solo effort four minutes from time made it an interesting final few minutes, especially when the home side went down to 14 men with Teddy Leatherbarrow being sent to the sin-bin for a petulant shoulder charge, but it was Scarlets who earned the bragging rights as they picked up their first win of the season.

Play of the Match

If you play for Scarlets or Wales you know that there will always be someone tracking up the middle of the field to faithfully follow any kicks ahead. Gareth Davies has done it consistently well throughout his stellar career and once again he struck out of nowhere in the second half. Steff Evans was hemmed in on the left and so kicked ahead into the Cardiff 22. Davies emerged from the shadows to swoop on the ball and slide over for the try that put his side in front for the first time.

Player of the Match

It was a timely return to action for Gareth Davies after his great work for Wales at the World Cup. He led brilliantly from start to finish in his first game as captain and scored one try and made another in the second half for number eight Vaea Fifita.

The scorers:

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For Scarlets:
Tries: Craig, McNicholl, Davies, Fifita
Cons: Lloyd 4
Pen: Lloyd

For Cardiff:
Tries: Bevan, Carre, Cabango
Cons: De Beer 2
Pens: De Beer 2

Yellow cards: Kemsley Mathias (Scarlets, 26′); Teddy Leatherbarrow (Scarlets, 78′)

Teams:

Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Ioan Nicholas, 13 Joe Roberts, 12 Eddie James, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Ioan Lloyd, 9 Gareth Davies (captain), 8 Vaea Fifita, 7 Teddy Leatherbarrow, 6 Ben Williams, 5 Jac Price, 4 Alex Craig, 3 Sam Wainwright, 2 Shaun Evans, 1 Kemsley Mathias.
Replacements: 16 Isaac Young, 17 Steff Thomas, 18 Wyn Jones, 19 Iwan Shenton, 20 Carwyn Tuipulotu, 21 Archie Hughes, 22 Charlie Titcombe, 23 Jonathan Davies.

Cardiff: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Theo Cabango, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Ellis Bevan, 8 Lopeti Tmani, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Alex Mann, 5 Seb Davis, 4 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 3 Rhys Litterick, 2 Liam Belcher (captain), 1 Rhys Carré.
Replacements: 16 Efan Daniel, 17 Rhys Barratt, 18 Will Davies-King, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Jamie Hill, 22 Max Clark, 23 Harri Millard.

Referee: Adam Jones (Wales)
Assistant referees: Elgan Williams (Wales) and Keith David (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)

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