A stoppage time try from No. 8 Keanu Evans saw the Scarlets U18s claim a stunning 44-40 victory over Cardiff at the Arms Park in their opening match of the Regional Age-Grade Championship.
A thrilling contest had seen the lead swap hands on numerous occasions and a solo score by wing Joseph Jones three minutes from time looked to have snatched it for the home side.
But showing huge character, the Scarlets came roaring back and it was Ysgol y Strade back-rower Evans, who had helped set up two of the Scarlets’ six tries, who stretched out with the clock in the red to secure the victory.
Both teams deserve huge credit for the way they approached the game, making for a superb spectacle on a bitterly cold night in the Welsh capital.
Scarlets dominated the early exchanges and were rewarded with a third-minute try by wing Sion Jones after a scything break from fly-half Carwyn Leggat-Jones.
Cardiff hit back with a try by wing Joseph Jones, before Leggat-Jones restored his side’s lead with a penalty from straight in front.
Back came the home side with a second try from a well-worked line-out move for hooker Tom Howe, but the see-sawing contest continued with a strong breakout by centre Gryff Watkins setting up an attacking position for a second Scarlets score.
This time it was all about the forwards. A powerful surge from tight-head prop Jac Pritchard from a tap penalty took play up to the home line and it was No. 8 Evans who made the crucial carry and offload to put Llandovery College’s Dutch second row Gabe Cahsay over from short range.
Jones converted to make it 15-14, but the lead lasted barely a minute. Scarlets failed to deal with the restart and a hack through from outstanding scrum-half Sion Jones saw the Cardiff skipper pounce for an opportunist score, converted again by fly-half Ben Coomer to make it 21-15 at the break.
Scarlets started the second half as they began the first, on the offensive with flanker Dom Kossuth handing the home side a taste of their own medicine with a try from a blindside line-out move. Jones was just wide with the extras.
A thunderous charge by loose-head Tom Phillips put the Scarlets on the attack again and after Cardiff were reduced to 14 men following a series of penalty infringements, skipper Tiaan Sparrow was put over at the posts following another fine offload from back-row buddy Evans. Leggat Jones converted.
Looking to attack from deep, a breakout from the Scarlets, with player-of-the-match Sparrow heavily involved, forced Cardiff into a deliberate knock on to halt the attack and it led to a penalty try for the visitors’ fifth score.
But Cardiff refused to bow down and skipper Davies crossed for his second from a short-range scrum.
A Leggat-Jones penalty pushed the lead out to nine points on 55 minutes, but after Scarlets replacement Joe Denman was yellow carded for a high challenge, Cardiff responded again when No. 8 Ethan Evans brushed off a couple of tackles to make the whitewash. Coomer converted to make it a two-point game.
What appeared to be a serious leg injury to replacement Yestyn Cook caused a significant stoppage to play and when the action did resume Cardiff looked to have won it through a brilliant touchline run by wing Jones with just three minutes remaining.
But there was still time for late drama
From an attacking line-out, replacements Lewis Jones and Deian Gwynne charged forward and it was Evans who showed his strength to stretch over for the crucial score. Replacement fly-half Steffan Jac Jones added the cherry on top to get the Scarlets up and running with a maximum haul.
Their next outing is against the Dragons at Parc y Scarlets next Wednesday evening (Jan 24).