The Scarlets travelled to the vociferous as ever Kingsholm Stadium to take on Gloucester in their last pre-season friendy. Gloucester were fielding a near full strength side as were the Scarlets, with only the big name of Jon Davies missing from their team sheet.
It was the home side that started the stronger, showing more intensity and brute strength at the break down. Assured of quick ball, they soon made the most of their speedy backline to send winger Simpson-Daniel over for a try, which fly half Freddie Burns duly converted.
The Scarlets began to make inroads of their own, with half breaks from Scott Williams and Gareth Maul in the centre. The rest of the Scarlets backline were also showing their strengths, with wing for the day Liam Williams showing his usual aptitude under the high ball.
It was Gloucester however that made the most of the half chances created. With the Scarlets defensive line strong in the face of repeated Gloucester attacks, fly half Burns chanced a kick through the line and England international centre Twelvetrees showed no hesitation on racing through to touch down to help give the home team a 14-0 lead.
Going in to the second quarter, the Scarlets were given little chance to attack, and matters soon got worse as second row Jo Snyman was yellow carded. Going in to the dying minutes of the half, Gloucester applied serious pressure in both the scrums and in attacks on the Scarlets try line, yet the Welsh defence held for the teams to enter the break with the score still 14-0.
The second half saw a Scarlets side appear with a completely different attitude. Effort and intensity was increased and the substitutions started to make their presence felt. A stable scrum from the first half was turned into a strong weapon second half as young prop Rob Evans made his mark. The forwards pack as a whole started to function more cohesively and after a strong attacking lineout and driving maul, they were soon awarded a penalty try after Gloucester deliberately collapsed it.
The conversion was added by returning fly half Rhys Priestland, making his comeback in rugby after an injury ravaged season last year. Priestland put his stamp on the game when on spotting a half gap he made a great burst through the Gloucester defence to release the U20’s world cup star Jordan Williams on the wing. It was the spark that was needed and the second half turned into a fast, furious and enthralling match.
Gloucester dug deep after the Scarlets’ rampant second half start and settled themselves with a penalty. With the Welsh region attacking deep in their territory once more, an error in attack saw Gloucester able to capitalise on spilled ball with a breakaway try which saw them extend their score to 24-7.
The Scarlets were soon awarded a penalty of their own, but turning down a shot at goal they bravely opted to kick for the corner. The decision proved a wise one when off the back of a strong lineout, lock Snyman neatly passed to hooker Ken Owens to send him over for a score.
With the momentum seemingly in their favour, the Scarlets were camped for long periods in Gloucester’s 22 with strong scrum after strong scrum, yet agonizingly a knock on when the ball was passed wide allowed Gloucester to clear their lines and relieve the pressure of having to keep the visitors out despite being down at one stage to 13 men.
Another great break from the Scarlets’ backline followed not long after, this time by wing Jordan Williams, saw them dance their way back into a great attacking position. Yet the Gloucester defence continued to hold firm, and forcing another error in attack from the Scarlets, yet another opportunist and break away try was coughed up allowing Gloucester to extend their lead to 31 – 12.
The Scarlets had the last word in the match after another sold lineout saw replacement no.8 Craig Price and scrum half Rhodri Williams linking well to send Williams over for the final score.
It was a vastly improved second half from the Scarlets, and with so many players returning from injury getting a run out, it provides the Welsh region with many positives going in to next week’s opening fixture versus Irish opponents Leinster.
Gloucester had an excellent run out, with their forwards dominating in the first half and their backs showing their pace and precision. It was a passionate and enthralling pre-season friendly that will have given both sides a big boost going into the season.
Full time: Gloucester 31 – 17 Scarlets
Gloucester: 15. Rob Cook, 14. Charlie Sharples, 13. Henry Trinder, 12. Billy Twelvetrees, 11. James Simpson-Daniel, 10. Freddie Burns, 9. Tavis Knoyle, 1. Nick Wood, 2. Darren Dawidiuk, 3. Ruper Harden, 4. Tom Savage (capt) 5. James Hudson, 6. Sione Kalamafoni, 7. Matt Kvesic, 8. Ben Morgan
Replacements: 16. Koree Britton, 17. Dan Murphy, 18. Yann Thomas, 19. Lua Lokotui, 20. Akapusi Qera, 21. Dan Robson, 22. Billy Burns, 23. Mike Tindall, 24. Steph Reynolds
Scarlets: 15. Gareth Owen, 14. Liam Williams, 13. Gareth Maule, 12. Scott Williams, 11. Kristian Phillips, 10. Steve Shingler, 9. Gareth Davies, 1. Phil John, 2. Ken Owens, 3. Samson Lee, 4. George Earle, 5. Jo Snyman, 6. Aaron Shingler, 7. Josh Turnbull, 8. Rob McCusker (capt)
Replacements: 16. Rob Evans, 17. Emyr Phillips, 18. Jacobie Adriaanse, 19. Jake Ball, 20. Richard Kelly, 21. Sione Timani, 22. Craig Price, 23. Rhodri Williams, 24. Rhys Priestland, 25. Adam Warren, 26. Jordan Williams