The Scarlets produced a powerful second-half display to thump the Southern Kings 57-10 in Llanelli on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Scarlets won the 2016-17 version of the tournament. They came into this clash with internationals such as Leigh Halfpenny, Scott Williams, Gareth Davies, John Barclay, and Samson Lee, as well as former Crusaders winger Johnny McNicholl. The result was expected.
By contrast, the Kings travelled to Llanelli with a largely depleted squad. Many of their stars defected to other South African franchises and various overseas clubs in the wake of the franchise’s expulsion from the Super Rugby tournament. Coach Deon Davids had little more than two weeks to recruit new players and prepare the team for the challenge of competing in a European tournament.
In that sense, Davids and his charges may not be too disappointed with the performance against the defending champions. The Scarlets haven’t lost many matches in Llanelli in recent times. On Saturday, they were pushed by a spirited Kings outfit, at least in the first half.
Kurt Coleman impressed during the early stages with his running and kicking game. The flyhalf identified the space on the right wing and kicked for Yaw Penxe to chase. The execution of that play marked an outstanding beginning to the Kings’ Pro14 adventure.
It didn’t take long for the Scarlets to shake off the early season rust, though. McNicholl finished in spectacular fashion in the right-hand corner. Halfpenny then crossed for the hosts’ second try. The Scarlets pack grew in confidence and the 15-10 scoreline didn’t quite reflect the hosts’ physical dominance.
The Scarlets’ superior physicality began to tell after the break. Flyhalf Rhys Patchell scored under the posts after his forwards had succeeded in setting the platform.
Lock Jake Ball crashed over in the 52nd minute and Halfpenny converted to power the Scarlets into a 29-10 lead. That score also secured the bonus point for the hosts.
The Kings’ defence left a lot to be desired and there were moments when the visitors’ handling let them down. They struggled during the second half when the Scarlets looked to keep it tight.
The hosts turned down several chances to shoot for goal. They opted to kick for touch and set the lineout. In the 66th minute, a well-executed maul culminated in a try for reserve hooker Emyr Phillips.
The Kings continued to run at the Scarlets. This tactic continued to play into the Welsh side’s hands. After forcing the turnover, they controlled possession and then crossed the line via Hadleigh Parkes, himself a former Kings player.
McNicholll scored his second try of the evening when he finished a beautiful buildup from the Scarlets’ own 22m area. Patchell added the extras to bring up the half-century for the hosts.
Steff Evans then scored after the final whistle to rub salt into the Kings’ wounds.
Scarlets – Tries: Johnny McNicholl (2), Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Patchell, Jake Ball, Emyr Phillips, Hadleigh Parkes, Steff Evans. Conversions: Halfpenny (3), Patchell (4). Penalty: Halfpenny.
Kings – Try: Yaw Penxe. Conversion: Kurt Coleman. Penalty: Coleman.
Scarlets – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay (c), 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rob Evans.
Subs: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Dylan Evans, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 David Bulbring, 20 Will Boyde, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Rhys Jones, 23 Paul Asquith.
Kings – 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Sibusiso Sithole, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Rudi van Rooyen, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Victor Sekekete, 6 Khaya Majola, 5 Dries van Schalkwyk, 4 Jurie van Vuuren, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Michael Willemse (c), 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Subs: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Luvuyo Pupuma, 18 Entienne Swanepoel, 19 Bobby de Wee, 20 Siyabulela Mdaka, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Ntabeni Dukisa, 23 Jacques Nel.
Photo: Simon King/CameraSport
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