Scarlets draw level with Connacht after bonus-point win

Battle for vital sixth spot in Pro 12 table continues in Wales

Scarlets 32 Connacht 14

Connacht’s top six qualification hopes were give a sobering shake-up when they were comprehensively outgunned by fellow hopefuls Scarlets in yesterday’s first lunchtime Pro 12 fixture.

In this crunch clash for both sides, a weakened Connacht found the Scarlets once again unstoppable on home soil as they wrapped up the win and bonus point by the 51st minute to draw level on points.

Connacht maintain the vital sixth place spot because they have won a game more, but Pat Lam’s side will need to find some much-needed away form to back up their impressive start to this season’s league.

“Disappointing,” said Lam. “ We have expectations and so do our supporters and we were below that today. We had quite a young group out there, but as a team we did not execute well, and the flow of the game changed dramatically with indiscipline. There’s still a long way to go, so we will move on to the next game.”

Connacht, having started with intent and pace, spurned two golden opportunities to post early tries, after outhalf Jack Carty had opened with a fourth minute penalty. But when Scarlets' John Barclay was carded in the eighth minute, the visitors failed to make it count. Firstly the home side halted Connacht's drive to the line and turned over possession with huge a defensive effort, and then Matt Healy was denied a certain try through deliberate obstruction from flanker Jake Heenan.

It took the sting out of Connacht's attack as the home side wrested the initiative, winning the breakdown battle and applying territorial pressure. Five successive penalties enabled outhalf Adam Shingler to post two penalties, before right wing Michael Tacigikabau crossed out wide to kick-start the home side's bonus-point win.

With the new Kiwi centre partnership of Regan King and former Hurricane Hadleigh Parkes causing problems, the home side capitalised on a lost Connacht lineout with left wing wing Harry Robinson crossing. Shingler made it a 16-3 lead before the killer blow came moments before the break. Connacht, trying to turn the tide, were camped on the Scarlets' line with a five-metre scrum, but when replacement scrumhalf Ian Porter, in his first match in 10 weeks, opted to go wide, Scarlets' fullback Jordan Williams intercepted to race the length of the pitch, opening up a 25-3 lead.

Although Connacht struck two penalties either side of the break, the Scarlets spurned the posts for a James Davis try and wrapped up the bonus point by the 51st minute. It got worse for the frustrated Connacht side when captain John Muldoon was carded, and with several players returning from lengthy injuries and Connacht missing the centre axis of Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki, all they could muster thereafter was a consolation try from Nikyi Adeolukun.

SCARLETS: J Williams; H Robinson, R King, H Parkes, M Tagicakibau; S Shingler, A Davies; P John, K Owens (capt), P Edwards; L Rawlins, J Snyman; A Shingler, J Davies, J Barclay.

Replacements: G Davies for A Davies and A Warren for King (41 mins), K Phillips for Tagicakbau (57 mins), G Earle for Rawlins (59 mins), A McCusker for A Shingler (63 mins), J Adriaanse for Edwards and R Elias for Owens (65 mins).

CONNACHT: D Leader; N Adeolokun, D Poolman, D McSharry, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, T McCartney, N White; Q Roux, A Muldowney; J Muldoon (capt), J Heenan, G Naoupu.

Replacements: I Porter for Marmion (29 mins), T O'Halloran for Leader (44 mins), U Dillane for Roux (57 mins), E Masterson for Naoupu (59 mins), D Heffernan for McCartney and JP Cooney for Buckley (62 mins), S O'Leary for Carty (72 mins).

Yellow cards – Scarlets: John Barclay (8 mins); Connacht: John Muldoon (54 mins).

Referee: Maius Mitrea (Italy).

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