Scarlets v. London Welsh, August 25th at Parc y Scarlets. Kick off 2:30pm
A big walk up crowd delayed the kick off for Iestyn Thomas’ testimonial match. The long serving Scarlet walked the teams out to a standing ovation as he said farewell to the fans. The Scarlets were fielding a more settled side to their previous pre-season matches, with London Welsh going for experimentation.
The figure of Gavin Henson starting at 10 got the crowd talking but it was the retuning Welsh stars like George North and Scott Williams starting on the bench that added the buzz of excitement at Parc y Scarlets.
The first half was a largely scrappy affair. The scrums proved to be a problem in particular and James Jones’ whistle was heard with too far a regularity for anyone’s liking. Henson had the first chance at points but he only managed to rattle the saucepan on top of the post.
Aled Thomas converted the home sides chance to give them a 3-0 lead. Wing Andy Fenby soon put them 8-0 up after another Gavin Henson penalty ricocheted back off the uprights. Quick hands saw Fenby break from his own 22 and with the standard Scarlets’ support play in the loose, Fenby soon finished off the chance he created by crashing over. Aled Thomas failed to convert.
Scrums raised their ugly head again with the Scarlets adjudged to be responsible for the infringements, leading to Deacon Manu being sent to the bin for ten minutes.
London Welsh made the most of his absence when they were able to crash over from short range, Lee Beach the scorer, bringing the scores back to 8-7.
It continued to be a fragmented affair, not aided by London Welsh coach Lyn Jones starting to unload his bench, wanting to look at all the options available. Henson was one of the players to depart, having looked to have picked up a fractured cheek bone in a clash at a ruck in the early stages of the match. It wasn’t until the end of the half, after London Welsh’s no 4 attracted the referee’s ire to join Manu in the sin bin, that the Scarlets were able to make the most of the space. A darting run from new wing Kristian Phillips gave Fenby the space to cross the line once more.
Half time: Scarlets 13 – 7 London Welsh
London Welsh made changes once again for the second half, and the Scarlets made a few of their own with the introduction of Shingler, North, Scott Williams and Gareth Davies.
The pace and quality of the match increased with both defences being tested and standing firm. Young replacements in the Scarlets front row of Samson Lee and Kirby Myhill were tested but looked to stand firm. Going into the last ten minutes the score was 16 – 10 to the home side, who were looking the stronger. London Welsh showed great spirit however when after a solid five minutes of being camped in the Scarlets’ 22 they finally made the decisive break to allow Jonah Holmes to cross the try line, which was duly converted, giving the exiles the lead for the first time.
With the stadium clock ticking into overtime, this finally seemed to kick the Scarlets into gear. With a break started by replacement full back Jordan Williams, the ball passed through several hands, including a juggle from Gareth Maule, before Scott Williams crashed over near the posts. With the conversion quickly added the game finished with a Scarlets victory, much to the delight of the crowd.
Full Time: Scarlets 23 – 17 London Welsh
Attendance: 4, 124
Referee: James Jones
Scarlets: Liam Williams; Kristian Phillips, Gareth Maule, Adam Warren, Andy Fenby; Aled Thomas, Tavis Knoyle, Phil John, Ken Owens, Deacon Manu, Sione Timani, Richard Kelly, Josh Turnbull, Johnathan Edwards, Rob McCusker (capt).
Replacements: Jordan Williams, Scott Williams, George North, Dan Newton, Gareth Davies, Peter Edwards, Kirby Myhill, Samson Lee, George Earle, Aaron Shingler, Craig Price, Richie Pugh.
London Welsh : Tom Arscott; Phil MacKenzie, Sonny Parker, Hudson Tonga’uiha, Nick Scott; Gavin Henson, Jonah Holmes, Tom Bristow, Greg Bateman, Paulica Ion, Jonathan Mills (capt), Kirill Kulemin, Daniel Browne, Lee Beach, Ed Jackson.
Replacements: Neil Briggs, Dan George, Franck Montanella, Arthur Joly, Adam Brown, Matt Corker, Ed Williamson, Mike Denbee, Alfie To’oala, Nick Runciman, Gordon Ross, Joe Ajuwa, Seb Jewell, James Lewis, Billy Moss, James Tideswell, Simon Whatling, Martin Purdy.