BACK WITH A BANG

Halfpenny en­joys his re­turn to Welsh rugby as Scar­lets give Kings a right royal ham­mer­ing!

Wales On Sunday - - SPORT ON SUNDAY - ROB LLOYD Rugby cor­re­spon­dent robert.lloyd@waleson­line.co.uk

IT was a tale of two de­buts at Parc y Scar­lets, a try-scor­ing one for Leigh Halfpenny and a bap­tism of fire for the South African new boys.

It was al­ways go­ing to be a tough ask for the men from Port El­iz­a­beth, hav­ing lost a chunk of their Su­per Rugby squad and fac­ing an ul­tra­con­fi­dent Scar­lets on their own turf in their face com­pet­i­tive game since claim­ing the Guin­ness PRO12 ti­tle.

And so it proved in what turned out to be a one-sided romp in Llanelli.

The Kings had asked plenty of ques­tions of the cham­pi­ons in the open­ing half, but tired badly in the sec­ond pe­riod, con­ced­ing 42 unan­swered points to the ram­pant hosts af­ter the break.

As for Halfpenny, it wasn’t a spec­tac­u­lar first out­ing by any means.

But there was a try and four out of five kicks at goal be­fore he made way to a warm ova­tion just be­fore the hour mark.

The Scar­lets main­tained their freescor­ing form of last term with eight tries in front of a crowd of 9,108, with man-of-the-match Johnny McNi­choll lead­ing the way with a brace.Flanker James Davies was also dom­i­nant at the break­down, en­sur­ing the Scar­lets en­joyed a feast of ball through­out.

The Kings had been ex­pected to be the weaker of the two South African new­com­ers, a squad dec­i­mated since they saw the door shut on them by Su­per Rugby chiefs.

They in­cluded just two play­ers in their start­ing line-up who had taken the field against the Chee­tahs in their last out­ing, while, in con­trast, the Scar­lets fielded 12 of their ti­tle-win­ning side that savoured glory in Dublin in May.

And while head coach Wayne Pi­vac had is­sued plenty of warn­ings against com­pla­cency in the run-up to the game, there was a dis­tinct lack of in­ten­sity in the open­ing ex­changes.

It al­most looked too com­fort­able for the home side as the Scar­lets went through the mo­tions with ball in hand with a train­ing-run feel to pro­ceed­ings.

The score­board was up and run­ning on nine min­utes when scrumhalf Gareth Davies sniped around the blind, lead­ing to the out­stand­ing McNi­choll div­ing over in the cor­ner.

How­ever, the Kings were in mood to bow the knee and re­sponded with a clev­erly-crafted try of their own — wing Yaw Penxe beat­ing Halfpenny to the bounc­ing ball af­ter a clever chip through from fly-half Kurt Cole­man.

The Scar­lets en­joyed plenty of pos­ses­sion and ter­ri­tory, but were strug­gling to find a clin­i­cal edge.

It needed a slick cut-out pass from Rhys Patchell to even­tu­ally break the Kings’ re­sis­tance with Halfpenny the ben­e­fi­ciary for his first try in Scar­lets colours.

But the Kings re­fused to be shaken off.

Cole­man and Patchell swapped penal­ties and it needed some de­ter­mined last-ditch de­fence from Hadleigh Parkes to deny pow­er­ful wing Sibu­siso Sit­hole at the end of the half.

Prob­a­bly stung by a few harsh words at half-time, the Scar­lets were far more like the end-of-term 2017 vin­tage af­ter the in­ter­val.

Patchell crossed at the posts six min­utes into the sec­ond half, then some su­perb han­dling from the for- wards paved the way for lock Jake Ball to charge over for a pop­u­lar score. Re­place­ment hooker Emyr Phillips fin­ished off a line-out drive for the Scar­lets’ fifth and with the Kings tir­ing badly in the fi­nal quar­ter, the tries flowed.

Fur­ther scores came for Parkes, McNi­choll and last sea­son’s top tryscorer St­eff Evans as the Scar­lets hit the ground run­ning in style. SCAR­LETS: L Halfpenny (repl R

Jones 57); J McNi­choll, H Parkes, S Wil­liams (repl P Asquith 60), S Evans; R Patchell, G Davies; R Evans (repl D Evans 65), R Elias (repl E Phillips 57), S Lee (repl W Kruger 60), J Ball (repl D Bul­bring 57), T Beirne (repl W Boyde 65), A Shin­gler, J Bar­clay (capt), James Davies

REPS: E Phillips, D Evans, W Kruger, D Bul­bring, W Boyde, J Evans, R Jones, P Asquith

SOUTH­ERN KINGS: M Banda; Y Penxe, B Klaasen, L Vulindlu (repl J Nel 25), S Sit­hole; K Cole­man (repl N Duk­isa 71), R van Rooyen (repl G Masimla 57); S Fer­reira (repl L Pupuma 59), M Willemse (capt; repl M Willemse 67), R de Klerk (repl E Swanepoel 59), J van Vu­uren, D van Schalk­wyk (repl B De Wee 65), K Majola (repl S Mdaka 65), A Nt­sila, V Sekekete REF­EREE: Frank Mur­phy (Ireland) AT­TEN­DANCE: 9,108

Leigh Halfpenny fires over a shot at goal dur­ing Scar­lets’ em­phatic Pro14 win over the South­ern Kings at Parcy-y-Scar­lets yes­ter­day PIC­TURE: Huw Evans Agency

Leigh Halfpenny is con­grat­u­lated as ref­eree Frank Mur­phy awards his try

Vic­tor Sekekete of the South­ern Kings on the at­tack yes­ter­day PIC­TURES: Huw Evans

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