Scarlets v Edinburgh
Edinburgh succumbed to a bonus-point defeat at the hands of reigning champions Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets this evening.
But despite a resolute performance, a red card to Italian international prop Michele Rizzo all but sealed the visitors’ fate just five minutes into the second half.
After the final whistle, Head Coach Richard Cockerill said: “To the letter of the law, if there is a shoulder to the head then you have no choice. Rules are rules and unfortunately for us it was very costly.
“I’m happy with the players tonight however, because they gave everything. We were second because we deserved to be second. Last week, we didn’t give everything and that’s not acceptable. I’m pleased with the players’ effort and application.”
Having won two of their opening three games of the season, both Edinburgh and Scarlets entered tonight’s contest looking for a return to winning ways.
The early exchanges represented somewhat of a dog-fight as it took until the 20th minute for the scoreboard to tick. Scarlets scrum-half Gareth Davies mounted a solo attack from a quick-tap penalty inside the Edinburgh half. And he would have opened the scoring was it not for a try-saving tackle from captain Magnues Bradbury. But the cavalry wasn’t far behind, and Rhys Patchell crossed the whitewash at the second attempt. Fullback Leigh Halfpenny converted. (7-0)
Davies soon claimed five points himself eight minutes later. Patchell threaded the ball over the top of fullback Bair Kinghorn to set up the line-out a short distance from the visitors’ try line. As the ball fell to the scrum-half, Davies evaded the grasp of Ben Toolis to take Scarlets further ahead. Halfpenny converted. (14-0)
Duncan Weir opened his account in the 35th minute with a penalty from around 25 metres out before a try from local boy Jason Harries closed the gap to just six points.
From their first real period of confident attack, openside Hamish Watson’s brute force took the capital side into the Scarlets’ 22. Quick ball from scrum-half Nathan Fowles found Harries running a great angle to fire through unopposed. Weir missed the conversion. (14-8)
Half-time score: Scarlets 14-8 Edinburgh
Scarlets re-entered the fray full of the confidence and swagger you’d expect from a championship winning side.
As they sprayed cross-field kicks left and right, the first went long but the second hit the mark. Steffan Evans could not get the ball away in time however as the Edinburgh defence chased him down.
The most pivotal moment came after 45 minutes, when prop Michele Rizzo attempted to counter ruck on his own line. Unfortunately, his shoulder made contact with a Scarlet head and he was duly sent for an early shower.
From then on, it was an uphill battle for Edinburgh. Man of the match Werner Kruger bundled over from close range before Aaron Shingler claimed the bonus point with the hosts fourth try of the night.
Reflecting on the character of his team, Cockerill added: “I thought our effort, our mentality and our endeavour deserved more out of the game. We made Scarlets work for the win and there’s a lot we can build on there.
“This is part of the learning curve – they are the champions – and they are better than us. But they weren’t hugely better than us and we’ve got to keep building on that.
“I thought parts of our performance were very good because Scarlets are a good side and they’ve got very good players. I wanted commitment from our players and I wanted them to stay in the battle and I thought we did tonight. We need to go to Leinster with the same mindset.”
Scarlets: Leigh Halfpenny; Johnny McNicholl, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Steffan Evans; Rhys Patchell, Gareth Davies; Rob Evans, Ken Owens CAPTAIN, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Tadhg Beirne, Aaron Shingler, Will Boyde, John Barclay
Replacements: Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Werner Kruger, David Bulbring, Josh Macleod, Aled Davies, Rhys Jones, Paul Asquith
Edinburgh Rugby: Blair Kinghorn; Tom Brown, Chris Dean, Phil Burleigh, Jason Harries; Duncan Weir, Nathan Fowles; Michele Rizzo, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, James Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Magnus Bradbury CAPTAIN
Replacements: Ross Ford for McInally and Simon Berghan for Nel (54mins), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne for Fowles, Robbie Fruean for Burleigh and Darryl Marfo for Ritchie (58mins), Fraser McKenzie for Gilchrist, John Hardie for Bradbury and Jason Tovey for Weir (66mins)