Scarlets stay in the hunt
MATCH REPORT: Scarlets played 36 minutes of the second half with 14 men but still managed to beat Cardiff 35-20 in the United Rugby Championship.
A brace of tries from Johnny McNicholl along with scores from Sam Costelow and Sione Kalamafoni, who was later red-carded, earned the Scarlets victory. Josh Adams and James Botham scored Cardiff’s tries.
Jarrod Evans and Costelow exchanged early penalties but it was Cardiff who claimed the game’s first try.
A tremendous offload out of contact by Jason Harries found Ben Thomas, who put the ball behind the Scarlets’ rush defence.
Adams was first on the scene and proceeded to boot the ball forward before regathering to score a try which Evans converted.
Scarlets hit back when Tom Rogers sparked an attacking opportunity and found Johnny Williams on the outside.
The big centre was brought down but the hosts went to the right, with Costelow jinking his way past Dillon Lewis before running in unopposed from 40 metres out for a try which he converted.
Scarlets finally succeeded in winning good field position when Costelow drilled them deep into Cardiff’s 22 as a result of the visitors getting penalised at the breakdown.
The hosts won the line-out and their maul drove towards the Cardiff try line before McNicholl stood up Harries to score.
They came close to a third try when Scott Williams powered over the line but the ball was grounded just short.
Scarlets held the upper hand at the scrums as they forced their visitors into conceding several penalties.
Referee Tual Trainini had enough of Cardiff’s repeated infringements at the scrum so decided to send Lewis to the sin bin and the Scarlets made them pay with powerful Tongan number eight Kalamafoni powering over from short range.
Costelow improved their lead with the conversion, meaning the hosts turned around with a 22-13 lead at the interval.
Scarlets made the worst possible start to the second half when Kalamafoni received a red card for a high tackle on Gwilym Bradley.
Dwayne Peel’s side was full of confidence and after working an overlap, the ball was cynically slapped down by Cardiff wing Adams who got punished with a yellow card.
Costelow made them pay even further by bisecting the posts to push the Scarlets out to a 12-point lead.
The hosts were finding holes left right and centre in the Cardiff defence and a break by Argentinean openside Tomas Lezana put them back in the visitors’ 22.
They went from left to right before McNicholl danced his way over the line for his second try.
Botham claimed a late consolation try for Cardiff but it was a case of too little, too late for Dai Young’s side.
Player of the match
Wales fullback McNicholl tore Cardiff to shreds and scored a brace of tries as he marked his 100th appearance for Scarlets with a stunning display.
Play of the match
A tremendous step from Costelow saw the number 10 beat Lewis before running in unopposed from 45 metres out.
Tries: Costelow, McNicholl Kalamafoni, McNicholl
Cons: Costelow 3
Pens: Costelow 3
Tries: Adams, Botham
Cons: Evans, Priestland
Pens: Evans 2
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Tom Rogers, 13 Johnny Williams, 12 Scott Williams (captain), 11 Ryan Conbeer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Tomas Lezana, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 Jac Price, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Javan Sebastian, 2 Shaun Evans, 1 Steff Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Harri O’Connor, 19 Morgan Jones, 20 Carwyn Tuipulotu, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Jonathan Davies.
Cardiff: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Jason Harries, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 James Ratti, 7 Ellis Jenkins (captain), 6 James Botham, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Corey Domachowski.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Rhys Carré, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Gwilym Bradley, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Matthew Morgan.
Referee: Tual Trainini (France, league debut)
Assistant referees: Dewi Phillps (WRU), Elliot Mayor (WRU)
TMO: Eric Briquete-Campin (France)