Scarlets gave Wayne Pivac and his assistants Stephen Jones and Byron Hayward a victorious send-off from Parc y Scarlets with a six-try thumping of Zebre that keeps their Guinness PRO14 play-off hopes alive.
The Italians proved stubborn opponents for long periods, but the Scarlets finished in style, scoring some scintillating tries in the final quarter.
With Benetton and Edinburgh both losing on Friday night, only two points now separate third from fifth in the Conference B table ahead of the final weekend of the regular season.
The victory was a fitting way for the Scarlets fans to say farewell to Pivac, Jones and Hayward, as well as players Will Boyde, David Bulbring, Tom Price and Declan Smith.
Zebre enjoyed the early possession and territory and it needed a superb try-saving tackle from Gareth Davies to deny wing Paula Balekana the opening score.
A turnover penalty from the outstanding Josh Macleod got the Scarlets into their stride and they were on the scoreboard after 12 minutes.
The try came via a dominant home scrum. The Scarlets eight shoved Zebre off their own ball, allowing No. 8 Uzair Casseim to pick up and show good strength to drive over.
Leigh Halfpenny converted, but the visitors were in no mood to let the Scarlets have everything their own way, showing plenty of enterprise with ball in hand.
However, with the Scarlets bossing the scrum battle, referee Keith Allen had little option but to show tight-head prop Marco Ciccioli yellow after 33 minutes and the home side took full advantage with Dan Jones sending Hadleigh Parkes arcing away from the defence and over unopposed.
Halfpenny again added the extras and the Scarlets led 14-0 at the break.
Targeting a full house to keep the pressure on their play-off rivals, the Scarlets began the second period with plenty of purpose, although Zebre continued to frustrate the hosts.
A crowd of 8,356 were brought to their feet on the hour mark when man of the match Johnny McNicholl soared in at the corner.
The TMO had a look to check the grounding, but replays showed the winger had done brilliantly to finish.
Halfpenny was again on target with the extras as the Scarlets began to find some fluidity to their game, aided by another Zebre sin-binning, this time for second row and captain George Biagi.
Striving for that crucial fourth try, it was Cassiem who dived over under the posts and with the pressure relieved, the Scarlets finished the game with a real swagger.
After a brilliant one-handed off-load from McNicholl, replacement scrum-half Kieran Hardy showed a sizzling turn of pace to beat the defence on the outside, then Ioan Nicholas raced away for try number six.
Hardy thought he had another, which was chalked off late on, but it didn’t matter, for the Scarlets, it was job done.
All roads lead to Cardiff for Judgement Day.
Scarlets - tries: U. Cassiem (2), H. Parkes, J. McNicholl, K. Hardy, I. Nicholas. Cons: L. Halfpenny.
|12||Nicolas De Battista||0||0||0||0|
|14||Gabriele Di Giulio||0||0||0||0|