The Scarlets started 2019 with a much-needed win as they defeated Dragons in a hard-fought win at Parc y Scarlets.
The Dragons were hoping for a first win in Llanelli since September 2007, but second-half tries from Ioan Nicholas and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and the boot of Dan Jones secured the win in a match that was dominated by scrums and the inevitable resets.
The Dragons had James Benjamin to thank for their late try, with Josh Lewis kicking two penalties, but the Scarlets’ pack ensured this game was in doubt – even if the backline still isn’t firing on all cylinders.
The cohesion that summed up their cavalier rugby last season has been decimated by injuries and form – with basic errors from senior figures curtailing any chance for momentum in the opening 40.
It didn’t take long for the scrumfest to begin – with the Scarlets earning a penalty after two minutes.
After turning down several kickable penalties last week, there was no messing about this time – with Jones lining up a kick at goal.
The fly-half, restored to the starting XV after two weeks of the Hadleigh Parkes experiment, made no mistake with his opening effort – stroking it through the uprights.
It wasn’t long before the Dragons had a scrum penalty of their own, but Lewis struck the outside of the post from distance with his opportunity from the tee five minutes later.
Scrums continued to dominate the early minutes, with Jones adding another three points after the Dragons infringed at once more on 12 minutes.
It would take until the half-hour mark for the visitors to break their duck on the scoreboard – with Lewis kicking a long-range penalty after good work from Hallam Amos and Matthew Screech forced a not releasing penalty from Scarlets full-back Johnny McNicholl.
As the first-half drew to a close, the Scarlets started to find some rhythm with their rugby – with a long series of patient phases resulting in Rob Evans having a try ruled out after the prop was held up by Zane Kirchner.
However, the Dragons had strayed offside earlier in the move – gifting Jones an easy three points from the tee.
Another moment of rare magic from the Scarlets inadvertently resulted in their next penalty.
A lovely flowing move down the left wing was cut short by a basic knock-on in midfield, but the Scarlets got the shove on at the scrum – resulting in Dan Suter being sin-binned and Jones adding his fourth penalty just before half-time.
Despite being down to 14 men, the Dragons started the second-half well.
A half-break from Hallam Amos drew a penalty from Ken Owens and Lewis made no mistake from out wide.
Much like last week, the Scarlets dominated all the statistic columns, but did little with their dominance in the numbers.
A gilt-edge attacking lineout went astray metres from the Dragons’ try-line in the 54th minute and you wondered whether the Scarlets were going to let this one slip.
Mere minutes later, you had your answer.
Another attacking lineout and finally some of the rugby the Parc y Scarlets faithful have come to expect.
Off the top of the lineout, Parkes took it at first-reciever, with Jonathan Davies holding the defence with a decoy run. Parkes slipped a pass out the back to Jones, who fed Asquith through a gap.
The winger offloaded wonderfully to McNicholl, with the full-back applying the final pass to Nicholas.
It was a moment of magic in a game that had delivered little else but turgid scrums. Even with their injuries and wretched form, this Scarlets team can still create moments like that when it all clicks.
The hosts closed out the final quarter with more dominance in the scrum, giving the Dragons little chance to work back the deficit with Hidalgo-Clyne forcing his way over from a quick tap after the Dragons yet again infringed at the scrum.
Scarlets threatened to extend their lead late on, with McNicholl making a lovely break but it was the Dragons would have the final say, with Benjamin crossing for a try following a flowing move in the final seconds of the match. However, it was little more than a consolation.
Scarlets: J McNicholl, I Nicholas, J Davies (S Hughes 74), H Parkes, P Asquith; D Jones (T Prydie 74), K Hardy (S Hidalgo-Clyne 61); R Evans (W Jones 60), R Elias (M Jones 61), S Lee (W Kruger 48), J Helps, D Bulbring, E Kennedy (T Phillips 58), D Davis, K Owens (captain).
Scorers: tries: I Nicholas, S Hidalgo-Clyne; cons: D Jones; pens: D Jones (4).
Dragons: Z Kirchner (J Williams 55), A Warren, T Morgan, J Dixon, H Amos; J Lewis (J Tovey 68), T Knoyle (R Williams 48); A Jarvis (G Ellis 16), R Hibbard (E Dee 48), D Suter (C Coleman 48), B Nansen (J Davies 68), M Screech, C Hill (captain, C Coleman 42-48), A Wainwright, H Keddie (J Benjamin 68).
Scorers: try: J Benjamin; cons: J Tovey; pens: J Lewis (2).
Yellow cards: D Suter
FULL-TIME: Scarlets 22-13 Dragons
And that is that.
So the Scarlets start 2019 with a much-needed win.
It wasn’t pretty, but they got the job done.
TRY DRAGONS! 22-13
Scarlets finding some flair in the dying embers of this one, with Dan Davis and Johnny McNicholl making breaks against the tired Dragons defence.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of support this late on.
Instead, the Dragons score, with Adam Warren feeding James Benjamin with an offload to cap a lovely flowing move.
TRY SCARLETS! 22-6
Five metres scrum brings the Scarlets a penalty advantage.
When Davies is stopped on the left wing, Hidalgo-Clyne tries the quick tap and appears to score.
A quick check with the TMO confirms it and that’s game, set and match for the Scarlets!
Another scrum penalty for the Scarlets and they go for the driving lineout.
Ken Owens is stopped just short and the Scarlets are held up as they recycle.
You sense another try is coming here.
Scarlets move within inches of the line after several patient phases, with the try seeming a certainty.
Somehow, they knock-on and the Dragons survive.
Scarlets fans are a little aggrieved not to get a penalty for what appeared a no-arms tackle from Rhodri Williams.
It matters little as they drive the Dragons back at the scrum and get the penalty there instead.
Dragons looking to put some width on the ball as they chase the game.
With Jordan Williams on, they’re causing the odd headache out wide but they’ve got some work to do.
TRY SCARLETS! 17-6
Finally a try!
The Scarlets go wide from a lineout, Asquith makes a half-break, offloads to McNicholl who puts Ioan Nicholas over.
Jones misses the conversion from out wide but the Scarlets now have a solid lead.
The Scarlets are camped on the Dragons line.
After winning another penalty, they opt for the lineout, but they lose it and the Dragons can clear.
Cardinal sin from the hosts.
Scarlets going through the phases at the minute but it’s cut short by a mistake from Parkes.
He just looks shirt of confidence at the minute and his execution is suffering.
Scarlets get it back and earn a penalty. They go for the corner.
Penalty Dragons! 12-6
The Dragons are down to 14 men but they’re the ones pushing at the minute.
Hallam Amos makes a half-break, is brought down by Ken Owens, but the Scarlet doesn’t release the winger as he looks to play the ball again after releasing it.
Penalty Dragons and Lewis kicks it from out wide.
With Suter off, we could see the Scarlets look for more scrums.
Prop Christian Coleman has temporarily replaced Cory Hill and wing Adam Warren is packing down at flanker.
Somehow, they hold onto it and don’t concede a penalty.
The teams are back out for the second-half and we’re underway…
HALF-TIME: Penalty Scarlets! 12-3
Rugby breaks out as some cohesion in the Scarlets backline nearly results in a scrum.
Almost inevitably, they knock-on on the next phase.
From the scrum, Dan Suter is sin-binned and Jones kicks another penalty to end the half.
NO TRY! Penalty Scarlets! 9-3
It’s hard to see a grounding on the replays – and the TMO clearly agrees.
No try so back to the penalty advantage.
Jones will go for the posts and he strokes over an easy penalty.
Finally some sustained pressure from the Scarlets as they work their way into the Dragons’ 22.
They still look relatively easy to defend against, but they’re cutting out the errors and creeping forward.
The penalty advantage comes but do they need it?
They push over from close-range, but have they scored?
Rob Evans carries over Kirchner, but the Scarlets don’t seem too confident.
From the restart, Knoyle’s clearance kick is a little long and the Scarlets have the chance to counter.
But again, a simple error, this time a knock-on from Jonathan Davies stops in their tracks.
Dragons look to attack themselves, but a good read from Davies in defence earns them the penalty.
Penalty Dragons! 6-3
It’s a lovely strike by Josh Lewis – straight down the middle of the uprights and the Dragons are on the board.
Tavis Knoyle puts up a box kick.
McNicholl claims it but Amos’ chase is good and the full-back is penalised for holding on after good work by Matthew Screech.
Lewis will go for the posts again from distance…
Josh Lewis is penalised for a high tackle on opposite number Dan Jones.
He’s a little unfortunate as Jones fell into the tackle late as he was being tackled so it’s just a penalty and nothing more.
Another couple of minutes go by with the latest set of scrums, before the Dragons are awarded a free-kick.
Dragons clear their lines.
Referee Craig Evans needs to get a hold of this.
Some attacking flair from the Scarlets as they work an overlap down the left.
They look to work it back to that wing but Asquith has a foot in touch.
The Dragons lineout is overthrow though and the hosts have attacking ball in the 22, but again it’s knocked on.
So we’re back with another scrum…
Another scrum. Another reset.
This is hard to watch right now.
The penalty then goes against the Scarlets as Samson Lee slips his bind.
The home fans aren’t exactly happy.
From the penalty, Scarlets go for the lineout.
Hibbard is chucking himself about in defence for the Dragons and the visitors do unsettle the host’s ball, but only enough to make it unplayable in the ruck.
So it’s another scrum for the Scarlets.
Here we go…
Bit of afters as a scrum goes down.
Sums up this match so far, been a turgid affair with plenty of scrum resets and not too much else.
From the reset this time, the Scarlets get the scrum and Dragons captain Cory Hill gets a talking to as the scrum infringements start to pile up.
Early replacement for the Dragons with Aaron Jarvis being replaced by Gerard Ellis.
Scarlets having plenty of possession, but their passing is just off.
Hadleigh Parkes throws a couple of poor passes that force the next man to stop in their tracks, while Johnny McNicholl hurls an offload forward.
Just sums up the lack of cohesion at the minute.
A shocking pass by Jonathan Davies gifts Dragons attacking ball.
They test the Scarlets’ defence, with Hallam Amos nearly escaping down the left wing.
But it fizzles out and Tavis Knoyle’s kick behind finds touch, rather than the chasing Adam Warren.
Worryingly, Tyler Morgan appears to be struggling with his knee.
Penalty Scarlets! 6-0
Scarlets win the penalty at the scrum… eventually.
For some reason, the referee allows play to go on, with the Dragons breaking down the opposite wing, before he pulls things back.
Not the greatest of starts by the official as he’s missed a couple of knock-ons too.
Regardless, Dan Jones kicks the penalty and the hosts double their lead.
Josh Lewis strikes the penalty really well from distance but it clips the outside of the post.
Narrowest of margins.
Scarlets go quick with the 22 drop-out and Kieran Hardy runs from one 22 to the other but the attack comes to a disappointing end as Ken Owens knocks on.
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