The LV Cup is often derided as being the “low value” cup, yet it offers up the chance for game time for fringe and young up and coming players to really go out and show what it is that they offer. It’s the chance to see future stars shine and there were plenty on display in yesterday’s Welsh derby encounter.
The Scarlets had the welcome boost of being able to start Samson Lee and Liam Williams, two young players that had been called up to Wales’ squad for the Autumn Internationals. For Lee, he started in the front row alongside Shaun Hopkins at loose head and his U20’s teammate Kirby Myhill at hooker.
It was the home side that started off the brighter, edging their way into Blues’ territory and having the vast share of possession. It wasn’t long until a penalty came and Gareth Owen slotted it over neatly to give the Scarlets a 3-0 lead.
One of the best plays of the game followed and it was the Blues that provided it. Against the run of play a half break saw them able to get in behind the Scarlets’ defence and some excellent supporting runs and neat offloads saw Luke Hamilton go crashing over for the Blues. Davies converted.
The rest of the first half saw the Scarlets working hard to gain good field position, but excellent counter rucking from the Blues saw them cough up possession far too often. The Blues took full advantage of the Scarlets’ errors and after kicking two penalties they extended their lead to 13 – 3.
A glimmer of hope came the Scarlets’ way when Liam Williams chipped a kick through behind the Blues’ defence but as he went to chase, Hobbs saw fit to drop his shoulder into the oncoming Williams’ face. He was lucky to only see yellow.
It was the Blues however that played as though they had the man advantage in the following ten minutes as the Scarlets time and again squandered possession, and with some handling errors taking any sting out of their attacks. The one weapon the Scarlets had though was their scrum. They needed only the one opportunity of a scrum 5m out from the Blues’ try line, for the Blues to collapse the scrum and the referee to award a penalty try. Owen converted.
With half time ticking ever closer, the Scarlets managed to win another penalty from a scrum, an up stepped Liam Williams to take a shot at goal as Owen received treatment. Williams had missed an earlier attempt but made no mistake with this one and the teams went in at the break level 13-13.
The second half was a slightly more fluid affair as both teams cut out the errors. Yet they were both very evenly matched, and it was only the Scarlets’ advantage in the scrums that was giving them the chance to push ahead in the game. New signing Adriaanse came on for Samson Lee and his performance will give hope to the Scarlets faithful as he locked out his side of the scrum.
Both defences ruled in the second half, with only penalty kicks at goal proving the difference. It was the Blues that edged ahead first, yet the Scarlets hit back through the boot of Aled Thomas, on for Owen, and as the Scarlets’ pack finally gained a stranglehold on the match, the home side ended the game 22-16 victors.
It was a tough game, yet the youngsters from both sides will provide positives for their coaches. The Blues’ try was full of heads up rugby and support play, and the Scarlet’s will be pleased with the solid platform provided by their scrum and it will be something they look to build on.
A win was needed for the Scarlets going forward, and they will hope it will give them the continuity and the confidence needed to go and perform well in their away trip against Munster in the Pro12 next week.
Full time score: Scarlets 22 – 16 Cardiff Blues
Scarlets: Liam Williams, Kristian Phillips, Gareth Maule, Gareth Owen, Andy Fenby, Dan Newton, Rhodri Williams; Shaun Hopkins, Kirby Myhill, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Johan Snyman, Craig Price, Johnathan Edwards (capt), Kieran Murphy.
Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Phil John, Jacobie Adriaanse, Joel Galley, Dan Thomas, Gareth Davies, Aled Thomas, Nick Reynolds.
Cardiff Blues: Dan Fish, Harry Robinson, Owen Williams, Gavin Evans, Tom James, Gareth Davies, Robert Lewis; Sam Hobbs, Marc Breeze, Ryan Harford, Macauley Cook, James Down, Luke Hamilton, Thomas Young, Andries Pretorius.
Replacements: Rhys Williams, Campese Mafu’u, Foa Filise, Cory Hill, Rory Watts-Jones, Lloyd Williams, Ceri Sweeney, Rhys Patchell.