Priestland guides Scarlets into second

 

Scarlets 21 Newport Gwent Dragons 15: Rhys Priestland scored 16 points as the Scarlets bounced back from their Christmas stuffing at the hands of the Ospreys to record a Magners League New Year’s Day win over the Newport Gwent Dragons at Parc y Scarlets.

The victory sees the Scarlets go back up to second place in the league although the Dragons did register a deserved losing bonus point.

The Scarlets were desperate to recover from their 60-17 hammering at the Liberty Stadium on Monday and coach Nigel Davies made key changes by bringing in number eight David Lyons and scrum-half Tavis Knoyle, as well as giving centre Jonathan Davies his first start since he returned from an ankle injury.

But the Scarlets found themselves 10-3 down at half-time despite the Dragons having Aled Brew in the sin-bin.

The match had been locked at 3-3 since the 17th minute after Rhys Priestland and Jason Tovey had exchanged penalties during the first quarter.

Despite the Dragons having the better of territory the Scarlets missed out on chances to take the lead. Priestland made a hash of two penalty goal attempts

and a try was ruled out by the television match official after fullback Dan Newton was held up over the line by Dragons wing Adam Hughes.

The Scarlets hopes of going in at half-time with a lead increased when Brew saw yellow for kicking out at Gareth Maule.

But it was a show and go by Wayne Evans that produced the game’s opening try deep in first-half injury time for the Gwent side.

The scrumhalf’s break sent Tovey down the wing and he put in a neat little cross kick to send Evans over by the posts.

It took just 64 seconds for the home side to level the scores after the break when Maule crossed after good work by Davies after the Dragons failed to secure the kick-off.

There was more misery for the visitors when they lost influential back-rower Gavin Thomas to the sin-bin for persistent infringements at the breakdown. That allowed Priestland to kick a penalty which put the Scarlets in the lead for the first time on 46 minutes.

But if the Scarlets thought they were going to continue to put the squeeze on the Dragons they were mistaken, and they lost a man of their own when they had centre Davies sin-binned on 64 minutes.

However, the Dragons missed a golden opportunity to draw level on 71 minutes when Tovey was wayward with a straightforward penalty attempt much to the

delight of the home crowd.

And the Scarlets made the most of the error as Priestland raced over for the Scarlets’ second try after good work by replacement centre Regan King and

Davies.

As the match entered injury time Brew cut the deficit to three points with a try after a kick ahead by Tovey, but there was still time for a third Priestland penalty to seal the home side’s success.