Saturday 21 April 2018

Scarlets hand Southern Kings a hiding in their first PRO14 outing

Leigh Halfpenny scored 14 points
Leigh Halfpenny scored 14 points

Leigh Halfpenny scored a try on his debut as Scarlets opened the defence of their title with a thumping 57-10 victory over Guinness Pro14 new boys Southern Kings.

As well as Halfpenny, who supplied 14 points, the Scarlets' tryscorers were man of the match Johnny McNicholl (two), Rhys Patchell, Jake Ball, Emyr Phillips, Hadleigh Parkes and Steffan Evans.

Kings' try came from wing Yew Penxe with fly-half Kurt Coleman supplying five points with the boot.

Halfpenny started for Scarlets in his competitive debut for the region, but his fellow British & Irish Lions Jonathan Davies and Ken Owens were rested.

Hooker Michael Willemse captained Kings in their Pro14 debut in a team that showed only two survivors from the last team that played Super Rugby two seasons ago.

Kings created the first scoring chance but Evans produced a try-saving tackle on Penxe and it was Scarlets who opened the scoring on nine minutes when Halfpenny put McNicholl over in the right corner. Halfpenny missed the conversion.

If Scarlets thought they were going to have it their own way, they were briefly made to reconsider as the speedy Penxe latched on to Coleman's kick. Coleman converted to give Kings a 7-5 lead.

But Scarlets hit back with a try for Halfpenny in the right corner after going for a catch and drive from a line-out. Halfpenny converted to take his side into a 12-7 lead.

Coleman and Halfpenny exchanged penalties in the space of two minutes as Scarlets held on to their five-point lead by the break - and they extended it to 19 with two tries in the first 11 minutes of the second half.

First Patchell went in under the posts having been fed by McNicholl, after the Welsh side this time used quick line-out ball rather than going for a catch and drive, and four minutes later Ball crashed over for the bonus-point try after a team move involving James Davies twice. Halfpenny converted both and Scarlets led 29-10.

They did not rest on their laurels, with replacement hooker Phillips going over from a driving maul.

The home side continued to attack with will as Parkes went over from another handling move from the champions and, with Halfpenny off the field, Patchell landed his second conversion.

McNicholl brought up the half-century with the seventh try, his second, after some more breathless inter-passing and, two minutes from time, Steffan Evans got in on the act to run in for the eighth try, with Patchell adding both conversions.

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