Much-needed vic­tory a tonic for Pi­vac fol­low­ing a dis­mal run of re­sults

Carmarthen Journal - - Midweek Sport -

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 didn’t take long for the Dragons to have 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 once more on 12 min­utes.

It would take un­til the halfhour 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 sec­ond­half well.

A half-break from Hal­lam Amos drew a penalty from Ken Owens and Lewis made no mis­take from out wide.

Much like the pre­vi­ous week, the Scar­lets dom­i­nated all the statis­tic col­umns but did lit­tle with their dom­i­nance in the num­bers.

A gilt-edged at­tack­ing line-out 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.

Just min­utes later fans had their an­swer.

An­other at­tack­ing line-out and fi­nally some of the rugby the Parc y Scar­lets faith­ful have come to ex­pect.

Off the top of the line-out, 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 cut back the deficit, with Hi­dalgo-Clyne forc­ing his way over from a quick tap after the Dragons yet again in­fringed at the scrum.

The Scar­lets threat­ened to ex­tend their lead late on, with McNi­choll mak­ing a lovely break, but it was the Dragons who had the fi­nal say, with Ben­jamin cross­ing for a try fol­low­ing a flow­ing move in the fi­nal sec­onds of the en­counter.

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).

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).

REF­EREE: Craig Evans ( WRU).

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