Scarlets fall to defeat in Galway

Rob Lloyd News

Scarlets were left to rue a combination of a sluggish start and missed chances after falling to a 26-10 defeat to Connacht at a blustery Dexcom Stadium in Galway.

After conceding three early tries, the West Walians fought their way back into the contest early in the second half, but were unable to take advantage of opportunities close to the home line.

A controversial second-half try awarded to the home side also proved crucial as Scarlets left the west coast of Ireland empty handed.

Scrum-half Efan Jones scored the Scarlets’ lone try on his first URC start, while there were strong performances from Wales international prop Wyn Jones, hooker Shaun Evans and skipper Sam Lousi.

Playing into a typically gale-force Galway wind, Scarlets were on the back foot from the opening whistle.

Dominating territory and possession, the men in green were over the whitewash after just six minutes thanks to a burst from prop Jack Aungier and finish from skipper Caolin Blade. Fly-half JJ Hanrahan converted.

Four minutes later, a full house were celebrating again as Scarlets failed to deal with a home attack and hooker Eoin de Buitléar crossed.

Missing too many first-up tackles, Dwayne Peel’s side were staring down the barrel on 22 minutes when No. 8 Sean Jensen hit a short pass from a tap penalty move for the third, but to their credit Scarlets dug deep and fought back strongly in the second quarter.

They managed to haul themselves back into the contest on 26 minutes thanks to a well-worked score finished by former RGC No. 9 Jones.

Wing Steff Evans provided the momentum with the half-break up the middle and when recycled ball found Fifita out wide, the Tongan dangerman shot through the gap before feeding Jones on his inside for a free run to the posts. Half-back partner Dan Jones landed the conversion from in front.

The rest of the half was all about the Scarlets’ rearguard.

Tomi Lewis denied his opposite number Andrew Smith in the corner, then strong work from Jac Price, Wyn Jones and Lousi halted further Connacht offensives before the half-time whistle.

Scarlets almost had his second early in the second half, but Connacht’s  final defender palmed down a try-scoring pass from Shaun Evans and the chance was gone.

The West Walians did have a penalty advantage, though, and Dan Jones landed the three points to reduce the lead to 19-10.

However, on 57 minutes, Connacht had their fourth in contentious circumstances. 

There looked like there was a knock-on in the build-up to Jensen gathering a hack through and touching down, but the officials thought otherwise, the No. 8’s score was allowed to stand and Hanrahan’s conversion extended the lead to 26-10.

Looking to get themselves back into the game, Scarlets pressed again, but spilled the ball within sight of the line, allowing Connacht the chance to clear.

A knock-on denied replacement Ryan Conbeer a run to the corner in the final minutes and Scarlets were unable to make any further dent on the scoreboard.

Scorers – try: E. Jones. Con: D. Jones. Pen: Jones

Scarlets: Ioan Nicholas; Tomi Lewis (repl Ryan Conbeer 67), Johnny Williams, Eddie James, Steff Evans; Dan Jones (repl Charlie Titcombe 72), Efan Jones (repl Archie Hughes 67); Wyn Jones (repl Steff Thomas 67) Shaun Evans (repl Eduan Swart 72), Sam Wainwright (repl Joe Jones 58), Alex Craig (repl Ben Williams 67), Jac Price (Morgan Jones 58), Sam Lousi (capt), Dan Davis, Vaea Fifita.

Att: 5,241