Clinical Scarlets expose understrength Leinster
Scarlets 45 Leinster 20: JOE SCHMIDT suspected Leinster were vulnerable but he did not expect his side to ship seven tries as their opening day hoodoo continued in Llanelli.
The European Cup champions have not won their first competitive fixture of the season since beating Edinburgh in 2007. And their understrength outfit, missing 18 players due to injuries and international rest periods, came severely undone as the Scarlets ran riot.
Two penalties from the boot of Ian Madigan kept Leinster in touch at the interval following first -half Scarlet tries from Scott Williams and Liam Williams. But the floodgates opened in the second-half with George North and Andy Fenby grabbing doubles and Kieran Murphy also scoring.
Devin Toner and Ian Madigan replied for Leinster but it was hardly a consolation for the weakened side.
The Leinster head coach said: “I knew we were vulnerable but you hope that you stay close enough so the opposition can’t open up and become a bit tentative.
“But once it opened up it was one-way traffic and that’s a credit to the quality of player the Scarlets had on the field – if they weren’t doing enough damage already there were guys like Rhys Priestland and Jon Davies coming off the bench.
“It wasn’t so much missing our first choice guys it was the youth and inexperience of the guys coming in. There wasn’t a lack of effort but certainly a degree of naivety and a lack of physical presence. We were bullied around the park. It’s a confrontational game and if you’re not competitive enough there’s only one way it will go.”
Leinster made an assertive start at Parc y Scarlets and Madigan slotted an early penalty. But the hosts quickly took control of the encounter before centre Scott Williams sliced through to score.
Williams turned provider to send his namesake Liam Williams, at fullback, over with a sublime pass. Leinster hung-on and Madigan’s second penalty cut the deficit to eight points at the interval.
But the Scarlets began the second-half in ruthless fashion and George North bowling over several defenders to break clear and turned up to finish the move.They continued to run riot, as Leinster failed to cope with their sheer pace, power and intensity.
Aaron Shingler displayed an impressive turn of pace after fullback Williams broke from deep. He flicked an offload out of the back to Tom Knoyle, who showed the deftest of touches to release Fenby in the corner.
Scarlets’ lack of discipline allowed Leinster to fight back and Toner drove over from close range following a five-metre lineout. But the hosts completed the rout with Murphy, North and Fenby all crossing for further tries.
Leinster refused to throw in the towel and Madigan, their best player on the day, was rewarded for his tenacity with a try after slipping a couple of tackles in injury time. He converted the effort but it was little more than a consolation and also suffered knocks to Isaac Boss and Dominic Ryan to make matters worse.
SCARLETS:L Williams; G North, G Maule, S Williams, A Fenby; A Thomas, T Knoyle; R Jones, K Owens, D Manu; G Earle, R Kelly; A Shingler, J Turnbull, R McCusker (capt). Replacements: J Davies for S Williams (49 mins), M Rees for Owens, P John for Jones (both 51 mins), S Timani for Earle (55 mins), R Priestland for Thomas (60 mins), K Murphy for McCusker (62 mins), S Lee fo Manu (66 mins), G Davies for Knoyle (69 mins).
LEINSTER: I Nacewa; A Conway, B Macken, N Reid, F Carr; I Madigan, I Boss; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, J Hagan; D Browne, D Toner; D Ryan, S Jennings (capt), L Auva’a. Replacements: A Dundon for Strauss (49 mins), M Moore for Hagan (52 mins), D Hudson for Carr (57 mins), J McGrath for van der Merwe (60 mins), J Murphy for Browne (62 mins), T Denton for Toner J Cooney for Boss, C O’Shea for Nacewa (all 64 mins).
Referee: Neil Paterson (SRU).