It was an opportunity to get a performance in readiness for the three festive derbies on the horizon as the Scarlets took on Ulster Rugby at their Kingspan Stadium home in the fourth round of the Heineken Champions Cup.
With the European campaign all but over for the Scarlets after three defeats in the opening three rounds head coach Wayne Pivac said that Friday night’s game was an opportunity to put a performance together in order to build momentum ahead of the looming derbies.
It was Ulster who kicked us off at the Kingspan in less than glamorous conditions as the temperature fell to five degrees and the rain poured in carried by a strong wind.
After early pressure from the homeside, camped in our half for the opening five minutes they claim the first points of the evening with scrum half John Cooney kicking a penalty from just inside our ten metre line after we’re penalised for not rolling away.
Ulster cross the line after winger Henry Speight gets them moving quickly, following a Coetzee turnover, into Scarlets' 22 but we come back for a scrum.
Loosehead prop Wyn Jones is sent to the bin on the 28thminute as Ulster come on the attack in Scarlets’ 22. The Scarlets are initially penalised, advantage is played in Ulster’s favour. They don’t cross the whitewash despite a great effort out wide by Speight. We return to the far corner and the homeside’s maul gives them a great platform to build from. Another penalty against Scarlets sees Jones binned for ten minutes. Phil Price is on with Lewis Rawlins off.
They come at us again and this time with only a 14-man defensive line Ulster cross under the posts through second row Iain Henderson. Cooney kicks the conversion.
With only three minutes of the first half remaining Scarlets gather some momentum and make their way in to Ulster territory. Advantage is played in our favour. Ulster are penalised twice for not rolling away handing us a penalty advantage. We’re on the five-metre line and captain Ken Owens points to the uprights. Rhys Patchell gets us underway; an important score before we head in to the sheds for half time.
Half time: Ulster 10 Scarlets 3
Ulster on the attack in our 22. They look like they're going to score the try. Gareth Davies gets the interception. He legs it downfield. See that he's got support, puts in a chip. It's not initially touched down by Steff Evans but Jonathan Davies comes in and touches down. Patchell adds the conversion.
From the restart Ulster get the bounce of the ball, get down in to Scarlets’ 22 and winger Jacob Stockdale scores in the corner putting Ulster back in the lead. Cooney’s conversion attempt is wide.
With 50 minutes gone in this fourth round Heineken Champions Cup clash coaches make changes with Ryan Elias and Dan Jones on for Ken Owens and Johnny McNicholl. Jonathan Davies takes the reins as captain.
Scrum half Cooney adds a penalty on 57thminute after Scarlets are penalised in their own half. Scarlets’ points equalising try is soon a distant memory as Ulster push ahead by eight points.
On the hour mark lock Iain Henderson crosses the line for his second of the evening after Ulster pile the pressure on the visitors. Cooney adds the conversion with Scarlets now trailing by fifteen points with only ten minutes left on the clock.
Scrum half John Cooney crosses for Ulster’s fourth, and bonus point try, on the 66thminute.
A concerted effort in the closing five minutes by the Scarlets sees winger Tom Prydie cross in the corner for our second try of the evening. Too little too late in terms of a result for the European campaign but a positive step in the right direction as the Scarlets look to build momentum ahead of the three festive derbies on the horizon.
Final score: Ulster 30 Scarlets 15