It was a hugely youthful Scarlets side that travelled up to take on the much more experienced Sale Sharks team on Saturday. With three players getting their official Scarlets debut, it was definitely a match to gain experience for the Welsh side.
It was the Scarlets that started the game brightly where a kick through, and a defensive blunder from Sale’s Cipriani, saw sniping wing Fenby cross for a try. Owen Williams converted.
It wasn’t long until the Scarlets struck again, with Owen Williams having the vision to kick ahead into space. Gathering his own kick and easily evading Sale’s desperate defence, he easily fed the ball to scrum half Davies who crossed to score.
It seemed every time the Scarlets had their hands on the ball, their backline had the adventure and skills to worry their opposition. The changes made to their team as a whole though was having a negative effect on aspects of their set piece and it allowed Sale’s more bruising pack to work their way into the game.
As Sale gained more and more possession, the Scarlets’ discipline soon started to tell and the score was soon pegged back to 9-14 to the visitors. One infringement too many saw lock Jake Ball sinbinned for a deliberate slap down and Sale did their best to work the situation to their advantage, scoring a try almost immediately.
The Scarlets rallied and did well to keep them out for the next ten minutes, but as the clock edged into the red as half time beckoned, Sale broke through the visitors’ defence for wing Amesbury to score, which Cipriani converted to go into the break 21-14 leaders.
The second half saw more of the same with Sale putting huge amount of pressure on the Scarlets’ defence, yet huge heart from the young side saw them keep their opponents out. It was only a penalty in the 52 minute that saw Sale put any point on the board, with the Scarlets having scored one of their own a few minutes earlier.
Discipline and fatigue was to play its part in the final quarter however. Prop Rhodri Jones was shown a highly dubious yellow card for not rolling away, despite clear attempts at having done so and not blocking access to the ball. As with the first yellow card of the game, Sale struck immediately with a try from Cipriani as a gap opened up in midfield for him to cross easily.
Ineptitude seemed to spread throughout the Sale team however and they made hard work of attempting to gain a try bonus point. Despite the ascendency in most facets of play, the handling skills of the team were poor and it was not until the 74th minute that they were able to cross.
The Scarlets will be disappointed with the score line, yet the commitment and battle shown by their youngsters will be a huge positive to take forwards. The first half showed spirit and adventure in their backline, but their discipline again needs looking at.
Sale made hard work of what should have been a relatively easy victory given the difference in supposed talent and experience in the two squads. Their forwards were their strong point, easily controlling possession and territory, but the lack of basic skills in their backline and often paper thin defence needs to be worked on.
Full time score: Sale Sharks 36 – 17 Scarlets
Sale Sharks: Cameron Shepherd, Rob Miller, Johnny Leota, Sam Tuitupou, Charlie Amesbury, Danny Cipriani, Dwayne Peel; Alasdair Dickinson, Marc Jones, Tony Buckley, Kearnan Myall, Tom Holmes, Dan Braid, David Seymour (Captain), Richie Vernon
Replacements : Tommy Taylor, Ross Harrison, Henry Thomas, Fraser McKenzie, James Doyle, Will Cliff, Jordan Davies, Charlie Ingall
Scarlets: Gareth Owen, Kristian Phillips, Gareth Maule (capt), Adam Warren, Andy Fenby, Owen Williams, Gareth Davies, Rhodri Jones, Emyr Phillips, Deacon Manu, Jake Ball, Johan Synman, Lewis Rawlins, Duane Eager, Kieran Murphy
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Rob Evans, Peter Edwards, Richard Kelly, Tomas Vallejos, Aled Davies, Nick Reynolds, Dale Ford.