Cardiff Rugby 23 - 29 Scarlets
HT 14-19
Sat 02 December 15:00 Cardiff Arms Park Ref: Ben Whitehouse United Rugby Championship

Cardiff 23 - 29 Scarlets

Sat 2 Dec 2023 17:00 Cardiff 23 - 29 Scarlets

Cardiff Rugby battled bravely following a first half red card for Ellis Jenkins, but in the end it wasn’t to be for them at a packed Arms Park.

They played with just 14 men for more than 50 minutes in this BKT URC Welsh derby following the dismissal of flanker Jenkins for a dangerous tackle.~

Nevertheless, they were leading going into the final quarter, only for the Scarlets to pull away for a bonus point win.

Cardiff had raced into a 14-0 lead inside ten minutes with tries from scrum-half Tomos Williams and full-back Cam Winnett, before the Scarlets hit back through their own Wales No 9 Gareth Davies and lock Alex Craig, with skipper Davies crossing again just before the break to give the visitors a 19-14 half-time lead.

Two Tinus de Beer penalties put the hosts back in front, yet wing Steff Evans and full-back Johnny McNicholl both crossed out wide to seal the outcome.

There was however the consolation of a losing bonus point for Cardiff thanks to a late successful kick from fly-half De Beer. So yet another tight game that went right down to the wire.

It had taken Cardiff just four minutes to open the scoring with a try that stemmed from a remarkable lineout drive.

The fast-moving maul travelled some 25 metres at a rate of knots, with blindside flanker Alex Mann breaking away as it motored deep into the 22.

Mann was brought down just short of the whitewash, but following a surge by Seb Davies, scrum-half Tomos Williams dummied and dived in by the foot of the left hand upright, with Tinus de Beer converting.

The hosts maintained the attacking momentum with a kick and chase from fit-again Wales star Josh Adams and an arcing run from fellow wing Mason Grady.

Then, on ten minutes, they extended their lead with another try off a lineout. This time lock Seb Davies leapt high at the close range set-piece, with the ball being moved into midfield for strong carries from front row duo Corey Domachowski and Liam Belcher.

It was then over to the backs, with fly-half De Beer firing out a pass to full-back Cam Winnett who juggled and gave a little show before nipping over for another converted score.

At this stage it was all Cardiff, but - very much against the run of the play - the Scarlets responded with a try of their own within a couple of minutes.

Centre Johnny Williams was the creator, breaking through in midfield and delivering the inside pass to send scrum-half Gareth Davies scampering under the posts, enabling Ioan Lloyd to add the straightforward conversion.

The visitors were suddenly back in the game and, emboldened by their touchdown, they went for another, opting to send a kickable penalty into the corner.

Their ambition ultimately paid off, with second row Alex Craig just managing to squirm over following a series of forward carries after the ball had been moved right.

Then, on 27 minutes, came the big moment, with Ellis Jenkins putting in a tip tackle on opposite number Dan Davis, an incident that provoked a mass dust-up.

After watching numerous replays during a lengthy deliberation, referee Ben Whitehouse brandished a red card to Jenkins who went over to shake the hands of Davis before leaving the field.

It was the Scarlets who had the final word before the break in the last play of the half, with their skipper Gareth Davies claiming a near carbon copy second try.

This time it was Johnny McNicholl who cut through before giving the inside scoring pass that once again rewarded Davies’ trademark support line running.

The conversion from Ioan Lloyd made it 19-14 at half-time and what an eventful 40 minutes it has been.

As everyone drew breath during the interval, there was a special reception for former rugby league star and now England defence coach Kevin Sinfield, who came out onto the pitch, having completed his second of seven fund-raising ultra marathons in seven days with his arrival at the Arms Park.

When play resumed, Cardiff swiftly cut the deficit through the boot of De Beer and came tantalisingly close to going back in front only for No 8 Mackenzie Martin to lose the ball forward just short of the line.

As the hour mark arrived, so the hosts nudged in front with their South African No 10 De Beer on target again, but it was a short-lived lead as Scarlets winger Steff Evans was worked over in the left corner for the bonus point try.

Another slick attack resulted in McNicholl crossing on the other side of the pitch ten minutes from time.

De Beer landed a late penalty to set up a grandstand finish, but Cardiff couldn’t get out of their half and Ioan Lloyd booted the ball off the field to signal the end of the game,