As the Scarlets took on Leicester Tigers in today’s LV Cup fixture, it was two hugely depleted sides that took to the field, both missing over twenty players each. Despite an overcast sky, conditions were dry enough to warrant an expansive rugby game.
It was the Scarlets that started the brighter, making good inroads into Leicester’s half where the visitors conceded a penalty by illegally killing the ball. Llanelli RFC fly half Owen Williams got the Scarlets off to an early lead by converting the three points.
With most of the play with the Scarlets, it was a rare visit to the home side’s 22 that saw Leicester secure a lineout to catch and drive over the Scarlets’ line, although the conversion missed.
The Welsh side came back fighting and soon earned themselves a string of penalties to extend their lead to 12 – 5, with the last penalty conceded on Leicester’s try line saw the referee issue them with the first of which was to be many team warnings for their discipline.
Cue another Leicester catch and drive in the Scarlets’ 22. This time it was the Scarlets that slowed the ball down, which saw Captain Emyr Phillips sin binned.
Attacking deep in Scarlets territory now, Leicester looked to throw the ball wide. In a high loping pass, winger Fenby rushed out of the defensive line and tried to gather it, but was only able to knock it on. The referee deemed it deliberate and soon the Scarlets were down to 13 men.
Leicester then opted for the scrum, and with the one man advantage they earned themselves a penalty try, which was duly converted.
Despite a two man deficit, it was the home side that looked much the better in the following ten minutes. The forwards, especially Snyman, all looked hungry and eager to carry the ball, where they worked their way into Leicester’s territory and earned themselves another penalty, the Tigers again killing the ball that saw them re-gain the lead.
It was Leicester that finished the first half the strongest, when the Scarlets back up to their full contingent were stretched across the field, and some good Tigers play saw Forsythe cross in the corner to end the half leading 19 points to 15.
The second half was all about the Scarlets. Straight away they worked their way into Leicester’s 22 and earned themselves a scrum through a Tigers knock on. A penalty followed and Owen Williams easily slotted it over to claw back the deficit to just the one point.
Replacement scrum half Gareth Davies added an extra bit of pace into his sniping runs and a kick through saw Nic Reynolds chasing hard to ground it for a try, yet a scrambling Leicester defender managed to touch it down first.
Changes were made for both sides, and it was the Scarlets scrum that dominated, pushing the Leicester back and earning themselves yet another penalty although agonisingly it hit the post. Not long after, still pressurising in the Leicester half, Owen Williams got another shot at goal to put the Scarlets back in the lead.
After further indiscipline from the visitors in both the lineout and scrum, the Tigers finally had players sent to the bin. It took until the final ten minutes for the Scarlets to cut loose. Replacement fly half Aled Thomas put a clever kick through for wing Fenby to gather and sprint to the line to score.
The game then truly opened up with Gareth Owen ruthlessly exposing a gap in the Leicester defence to run in unopposed. The Scarlets’ lead was extended then through some great support running by Nic Reynolds to chase down a kick through and to pounce on it over the line.
Rapturous applause greeted this much needed win for the Scarlets. With the forwards getting more and more dominant as the game progressed, it will give them great heart going into key home fixtures in the RaboDirect PRO12 in the coming weeks, after a poor run of form.
Both sides were missing a vast number of players yet the style of play, commitment and attitude on show that had been seemingly missing in recent weeks, will give both Scarlets players and supporters a huge boost going into the tail end of the season.
Full time score: Scarlets 40 – 19 Leicester Tigers.
Referee: Greg Garner
Scarlets: Gareth Owen; Kyle Evans, Nick Reynolds, Adam Warren, Andy Fenby; Owen Williams, Aled Davies; Rhodri Jones, Emyr Phillips (capt), Deacon Manu, Jake Ball, Johan Synman, Sione Timani, Lewis Rawlins, Kieran Murphy.
Replacements : Kirby Myhill, Shaun Hopkins, Deacon Manu, Richard Kelly, Duane Eager, Gareth Davies, Aled Thomas, Dale Ford.
Leicester Tigers: Mathew Tait; Scott Hamilton, Andy Forsyth, Matt Cornwell, Vereniki Goneva; Dan Bowden, Micky Young; Boris Stankovich, George Chuter, Logovi’i Mulipola, Rob Andrew, Harry Wells, Brett Deacon (capt), Richard Thorpe, Thomas Waldrom.
Replacements: Rob Hawkins, Ryan Bower, Fraser Balmain, Matt Hubbart, George Oliver, Sam Harrison, Andy Symons, Geordan Murphy.