Wednesday 21 March 2018

Scarlets dent Connacht's European prospects

Scarlets 32 Connacht 14

Connacht's George Naoupu is unable to find a way past Peter Edwards and Steve Shingler, Scarlets.
Connacht's George Naoupu is unable to find a way past Peter Edwards and Steve Shingler, Scarlets.
Connacht's Ian Porter does well to evade a tackle
Connacht's Jake Heenan is tackled by Jordan Williams, Scarlets
Connacht's Ian Porter sends the ball out wide
Connacht's Matt Healy in action against Scarlets

Andrew Gwilym

Connacht's hopes of a return to top-level European competition were dealt a blow as they suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of the Scarlets.

The western province, without a win in Llanelli since 2004, were blown away as tries from Michael Tagicakibau, Harry Robinson, Jordan Williams and James Davies ensured a five-point Scarlets success, with fly-half Steven Shingler adding three conversions and two penalties.

All Connacht had to show for their efforts were three penalties from fly-half Jack Carty and a late try from wing Niyi Adeolokun, as their hosts moved level on points with Pat Lam's men in the race to secure a top-six place and Champions Cup qualification for next season.

Yet Connacht had started brightly on a warm, spring day. Carty kicked an early penalty and the Scarlets lost John Barclays to the sin bin for collapsing a well-organised maul.

Matters looked to have got even better when wing Matt Healy dummied his way past two defenders and coasted over, but the score was disallowed for blocking.

It arrested Connacht's momentum, and set up the period which effectively decided the game.

Shingler had kicked two penalties before the opener arrived, Regan King showed all his class to make a half-break, draw in Adeolokun and give Tagicakibau a simple finish out wide.

Shingler missed the conversion but was adding the extras to a second Scarlets score just a handful of minutes later.

It all came from an overthrown Connacht lineout. The Scarlets seized possession and again it was King who created the score, this time cleverly arriving late on the blind side to create a two-on-one and a canter over the line for Robinson.

Connacht desperately needed a response and worked their way into the hosts' 22, only for Carty to float an ill-advised pass under pressure which was picked off by Williams who set off on a 80-metre canter to score beneath the posts.

Carty trimmed the deficit with two penalties either side of the interval, and wing Healy launched a thrilling counter which ended with Williams just hauling him down.

But the Scarlets killed the game off as flanker Davies crashed over from Barclay's offload, before Adeolokun's late consolation.

Scarlets - J Williams; H Robinson, R King (A Warren 41), H Parkes, M Tagicakibau (K Phillips 59); S Shingler, A Davies (G Davies 41); P John, K Owens (captain) (R Elias 69), P Edwards (J Adriaanse 68), L Rawlins (G Earle 61), J Snyman, A Shingler (R McCusker 67), J Davies, J Barclay.

Connacht - D Leader (T O'Halloran 45); N Adeolokun, D Poolman, D McSharry, M Healy; J Carty (S O'Leary 74), K Marmion (Porter 31); D Buckley (JP Cooney 66), T McCartney (D Heffernan 66), N White (R Ah You 52), Q Roux (U Dillane 61), A Muldowney, J Muldoon (captain), J Heenan, G Naoupu (E Masterson 63).

Ref - M Mitrea (Italy)

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