Scarlets 31 - 25 Cardiff Rugby
HT 14-14
Sat 04 November 17:15 Parc y Scarlets Ref: Adam Jones United Rugby Championship

Scarlets 31-25 Cardiff

Sat 4 Nov 2023 18:00 Scarlets 31-25 Cardiff

Cardiff slipped to defeat in Llanelli as the Scarlets battled back in the BKT United Rugby Championship.

The Blue and Blacks made an impressive start in west Wales and claimed first-half tries from Ellis Bevan and Rhys Carré.

They would have been frustrated to enter the interval level at 14-14, having dominated the first-half but there could be no complaints in the second as the home side’s experienced players came to the fore.

Gareth Davies scored a try and set up another to put the Scarlets in a commanding position. A stunning score from Theo Cabango set up a tense finale

Cardiff were forced into a change ahead of kick-off with Aled Summerhill pulling out due to a tight hamstring in the team run.

Harri Millard stepped into the starting line-up with Jacob Beetham coming onto the bench for his first competitive appearance since facing Toulouse in the European Cup in 2021 and his league debut.

The Blue and Blacks made an impressive start to the encounter and bagged the first try after six minutes. A turnover in midfield from Lopeti Timani put them in the ascent and minutes later they crossed.

It came in fortuitous circumstances as Cam Winnett attacked down the left. He attempted to get a second Scarlets defender to bite before passing to Theo Cabango. The pass was blocked however the ball fell to Millard, who drew the last defender before sending Bevan over. De Beer added the extras to give his side an early 0-7 lead.

Soon it was the Scarlets on the attack, after they kicked a penalty to the corner but Cardiff held firm and were able to clear their lines.

They continued to cause the hosts problems with Winnett in particular lively before Rey Lee-Lo broke the line. He did not see the support on his outside initially and when he released an offload to the space it was intercepted.

The Scarlets hit back on 19 minutes thanks to a close range drive from second-row Alex Craig, after the hosts kicked a pair of penalties to the corner. Ioan Lloyd converted to tie the scores.

The hosts then failed to claim the restart and Cardiff almost pounced on loose ball for an opportunistic try. It was not to be and they came back for a scrum before winning a penalty in front of the posts.

Sensing an advantage at the set-piece they opted to scrum, launching a seven minute period of scrum penalties and free-kicks that eventually saw Kemsley Mathias sent to the bin.

On the one occasion the scrum was completed the ball squirted loose and it looked as though the Scarlets might survive. However a remarkable drive from De Beer saw the momentum regained and Carré soon bulldozed over.

De Beer slotted the simple conversion and with a dominant forward pack stamping their authority on the game, Cardiff came agonisingly close to claiming a quick-fire third.

Timani exploded off the back of the scrum and good link play with Thomas Young almost created the score but Cardiff were held up over the line. They came back for the penalty, which was kicked to the corner but frustratingly the driving line out was pinged.

To compound the frustration, another penalty saw the Scarlets take the play into the Cardiff twenty-two and after twice switching play back down the blindside, Johnny McNicholl, who has so often been a thorn in Cardiff’s side, skipped out of a tackle to ease over.

Lloyd, a product of the Cardiff pathway, once again levelled the scores with Cardiff the likely frustrated side at the break.

De Beer booted the scoreboard back into action three minutes after the restart and the Blue and Blacks were once again in the driving seat in terms of territory and possession.

They were camped on the edge of the Scarlets’ twenty-two but unable to breakthrough and soon spilled possession. It proved a costly mistake as the Scarlets soon spread the ball and claimed a fine try against the run of play.

McNicholl fixed two defenders and released Staff Evans, who instinctively kicked ahead and inside for Gareth Davies. The Wales scrum-half kept his composure with the try-line at his mercy and collected the ball to slide over. Lloyd converted to give the Scarlets a 21-17 lead.

De Beer cut the deficit to a single point when the Scarlets were caught on the wrong side on 60 minutes.

However, the Scarlets soon took a major stride towards victory. Davies was once again instrumental as he broke off the bat of a scrum, racing blind before putting Vaea Fifita away.

De Beer attempted a last-ditch tackle but he could not stop the Tongan number eight from charging over. Lloyd nailed the touchline conversion as the Scarlets stretched their lead to 28-20

Lloyd added a penalty to make it an 11-point lead with just seven minutes remaining.

Cardiff appeared to be playing with fire as they attacked from within their own twenty-two with De Beer first slapping a pass to the left and Cam Winnett sending a cross kick chip behind the Scarlets.

But it proved an inspired decision as Cabango collected the ball on the bounce, skipped out of the tackle and then side-stepped McNicholl for a one try.

De Beer missed the conversion but the try had salvaged a losing bonus-point and the Blue and Blacks then almost went the length from the restart.

Alex Mann stepped the chase and raced down the touchline before passing inside to Harri Millard, however the ball was lost as the Scarlets had superior numbers in defence.

Cardiff continued to push in the final minute but were finally turned over in the Scarlets 22 who ran the clock down before kicking to touch to end the game.