Lam insists Connacht will turn corner
Connacht 21 Scarlets 24
Connacht continue to hold the patent on moral victories, but head coach Pat Lam remains adamant the Westerners' Pro12 losing streak will end soon.
This was the team's seventh defeat on the spin in the competition and though Scarlets were short a raft of internationals, the locals failed to capitalise despite a lively start.
Scarlets, who had three players sin-binned during an entertaining match, did the damage either side of half-time when running in three tries, and though Lam was "frustrated," he is certain Connacht will take a scalp soon.
"We are very close to breaking the losing sequence. I think everyone can see it. I'd be worried if we weren't creating opportunities. We are creating, but we are just not finishing enough of them."
The opening period was an all too familiar tale for Connacht, who played brightly but still went in trailing at the interval. Craig Ronaldson's left peg nailed three penalties, but Connacht only led by 9-3 as the break approached.
Scarlets then made a trip into Connacht territory count in the 39th minute as Gareth Davies crafted space for debutant Frazier Climbo, who burst through a couple of weak tackles, and Aled Thomas subsequently added the extras. The visitors could scarcely believe their luck as they went in 10-9 in the ascendancy and Lam admitted that was difficult to take.
"We should have been ahead by half-time, but it was a game where we made crucial errors at bad times," said the Connacht boss. Things deteriorated for Connacht in the third quarter when Scarlets seized the initiative as Kirby Myhill and Gareth Davies touched down. Connacht were 9-24 behind, but they did muster a rally as tries from Matt Healy and replacement Jason Harris-Wright trimmed the deficit.
It was fast and furious in the dying stages, but Scarlets skipped out of the west of Ireland armed with a gritty triumph. Coach Simon Easterby acknowledged that the early grunt and graft was key.
"We sustained a fair bit of pressure in the first half, but we only conceded nine points," he said.
Connacht were left to rue what might have been – again.
Connacht – G Duffy (F Carr, 65); D Leader, E Griffin, D McSharry, M Healy; C Ronaldson (D Parks, 57), K Marmion; B Wilkinson (R Loughney, 34), S Henry (J Harris-Wright, 55), N White (R Ah You, 55); M Swift (M Kearney, 61), C Clarke; A Muldowney, J Heenan, E Masterson (G Naoupu, 61).
Scarlets – G Owen; F Climo, G Maule (K Phillips, 79), A Warren, N Reynolds; A Thomas, G Davies (A Davies, 71); P John (S Hopkins, 79), K Myhill, J Adriaanse; J Ball, G Earle (J Synman, 72); A Shingler, J Turnbull, S Timani (D Thomas, 76).
Ref – M Liperini (Italy).