SCARLETS returned to winning ways with a confidence-boosting six-try triumph over Benetton at Parc y Scarlets.
Flanker Jac Morgan, on his return from a knee injury, produced a stellar man-of-the-match display, crossing for two tries as part of a dominant first-half performance,
Scarlets had the try bonus point in the bag before half-time with half-backs Sam Costelow and Dane Blacker also crossing the whitewash.
Benetton did attempt to fight their way back into the game in the second period, but late tries from Sione Kalamafoni and replacement Paul Asquith sealed a comprehensive triumph.
It was the Italians who were first on the board thanks to a penalty from international fly-half Tommaso Allan, but the Scarlets’ response was swift.
Strong work from a close-range line-out took play up to the Benetton line and it was that man Morgan who found his way to the line for his first try of the match.
With Scarlets dominating possession and territory and with the visitors continuing to fall foul of referee Dan Jones, Scarlets turned the screw as Benetton found themselves down to 13 men following the sin-binning of hooker Tomas Baravelle and prop Tiziano Pasquali.
Fly-half Costelow found a gap to dummy his way through the stretched Benetton defence, but injured an ankle in the process. It was left to Steff Evans to nail the conversion. The injury forced Costelow off the field to be replaced by Dan Jones.
Three minutes later Scarlets were celebrating a third try when a counter attack found Morgan on the left wing. The openside had plenty to do 30 metres out, but powered through and brushed off four Benetton defenders to cross for a stunning solo score.
Scarlets still weren’t finished for the half. A clever kick through from replacement Jones found acres of space, full-back Johnny McNicholl hacked on and it was scrum-half Blacker who pounced for the bonus-point try.
Trailing 26-3 at the interval, Benetton showed plenty of spirit at the start of the second period, having a length-of-the-field try chalked off then crossing for a legitimate score through wing Leonardo Sarto.
Scarlets conjured up a number of further opportunities, but couldn’t add to their lead in the third quarter and had to be content with a Jones penalty to extend their advantage.
Prop Steff Thomas appeared for his PRO14 debut as Scarlets emptied the bench and finally, on 71 minutes, the fifth try arrived. Centre Tyler Morgan turned provider with a scything break and when he was brought down just before the whitewash, Kalamafoni was on hand to crash over.
The visitors hit back straight away with a try from a line-out rumble, but it was the Scarlets who had the final word when slick hands across the back division found Asquith, who put the finishing touch on the victory with a sharp sidestep for try number six.
With only three matches of the Guinness PRO14 season remaining, the win keeps the Scarlets firmly in the hunt for a Champions Cup spot for next season.
Scarlets convincingly beat Ospreys
Rainbow Cup • Scarlets 22 – Ospreys 6
SCARLETS delivered a dominant derby performance to claim their first victory of the Rainbow Cup campaign, beating the Ospreys 22-6, at a rain-soaked Parc y Scarlets.
Prop Alex Jeffries scored the only try of the match, with full-back Leigh Halfpenny delivering a typically dead-eyed goal-kicking display in atrocious conditions.
The platform was laid by the Scarlets pack, with skipper Ken Owens, Blade Thomson and Aaron Shingler to the fore; the man of the match Kieran Hardy mixed up his game intelligently, while a much-improved defensive display saw the visitors restricted to just two kicks at goal from fly-half Luke Price.
It was the Ospreys who opened the scoring with a penalty from the boot of Price on two minutes, but the Scarlets responded strongly with Halfpenny levelling on 17 after the visitors were caught offside.
The outstanding Jonathan Davies looked like he made it over the whitewash after bursting through a couple of tackles, but the television match official adjudged the Wales centre had lost the ball as he slid over the whitewash and the score was chalked off.
Nevertheless, the Scarlets continued to boss proceedings.
With the Ospreys falling foul of Scottish referee Ben Blain, Halfpenny added a couple more penalties and an impressive half for the home side was capped when Jeffries crossed two minutes before the interval
A well-worked line-out move saw Davies burst onto a pass from Owens, breaking through a couple of tackles before feeding the tight-head prop on his inside.
Jeffries still had plenty to do but showed a superb turn of pace to race clear 20 metres to the whitewash to touch down against his former side.
That made it 16-3 at half-time with the Scarlets seemingly in firm control.
The visitors, looking for their first PRO14 win at Parc y Scarlets since 2015, did enjoy more of the game in the second period.
Price reduced the arrears with a penalty and it needed some superb defence to keep the Ospreys line-out maul at bay.
Another Halfpenny penalty five minutes from time extended the lead to 22-6 to ensure a comfortable victory and a seasonal double over the Scarlets’ arch-rivals.
Three summer tests announced for Wales
WALES will play three summer tests in Cardiff this July as revised international fixtures have been announced.
Wayne Pivac’s side will face Canada (July 3) and back-to-back games against Argentina (July 10 & 17) at Principality Stadium.
These tests replace the scheduled summer tour to Argentina which has had to be cancelled due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty around travel restrictions.
The Pumas will now travel to Cardiff for two tests against the Six Nations Champions.
Wales will kick off their summer campaign on July 3 at home to Canada. The Canucks who are coached by former Wales captains Kingsley Jones and Rob Howley will visit Cardiff for the first time since 2008.
“We are looking forward to this summer, the opportunity it presents, and we are delighted to have three tests confirmed,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.
“It is disappointing not to have the opportunity to tour Argentina, especially on the back of our 2020 tour to New Zealand being cancelled, but in the current climate it is completely understandable.
“What is important is we have games and as we have said all along, this summer is a huge opportunity for us. We are delighted and proud to have 10 players selected for the British & Irish Lions, it is reward for all their hard work and we wish them all the best this summer.
“With those players away we always earmarked this summer as an important development opportunity for us.
“It is an opportunity to bring players into this environment, look at them closely and expose them to test match rugby. It is also an opportunity for current internationals to step-up into further leadership roles, so on both counts it is an important camp for us looking ahead to RWC2023.”
WRU CEO Steve Phillips added: “It is a huge credit to World Rugby that a full schedule of summer international rugby has been achieved against the backdrop of the global pandemic.
“Whilst it is obviously disappointing not to tour, we are delighted in Wales to be hosting Canada and to be able to honour the 2017 San Francisco agreement by hosting the Pumas for back-to-back matches, which will be hugely important to our international player development.
“Wayne has been adamant that his squad needs matches this summer and World Rugby have certainly delivered on that front.
“We are, of course, acutely aware of current restrictions and the ongoing and complex global COVID-19 picture. We will continue to monitor the situation in terms of any potential spectator access, but will remain entirely compliant and vigilant of all restrictions.
“In the current circumstances we are simply delighted to be able to play international rugby and any advance on that will be a bonus.”
New Llandovery Leisure Centre opens its doors after lockdown
A BRAND new leisure centre will open its doors for the first time in Llandovery on Monday, May 3.
Carmarthenshire County Council has invested significantly to bring a new leisure centre to the north of the county, bringing a state-of-the-art gym, sports hall, dance studio and community facilities to the area in addition to the existing swimming pool.
It is the first new leisure centre to be launched by the county council in years, supporting efforts to help people improve their wellbeing and providing leisure space for locals and visitors.
Part of the old Ysgol Pantycelyn site has been converted to house the new leisure centre meaning that people can now take advantage of an all-inclusive offer of gym, swim and fitness classes.
A brand new gym features top of the range equipment with the latest technology that allows people to surf the web, watch TV, log in to their social media accounts or watch YouTube videos whilst they work out.
There will be screens allowing people to take part in virtual classes being held by instructors in the county’s other leisure centres simultaneously, and a range of new spin bikes will enable coached and virtual spin classes to take place.
A sports hall, dance studio and multi-use games area will provide facilities for a range of sports and classes, including tailored fitness classes under the National Exercise Referral Scheme.
Carmarthenshire County Council’s head of leisure, Ian Jones, said the authority is thrilled to be improving its leisure offer for Llandovery and the surrounding area.
“It’s been many years since we’ve launched a new leisure centre, and we’re delighted to be bringing this new facility to Llandovery,” he said.
“We have invested significantly to deliver this new leisure centre and I’m sure people will enjoy visiting to improve their fitness or simply enjoy some leisure time in purpose-built surroundings.
“Our Actif team look forward to opening the doors on Monday and welcoming people in, and visitors can be assured by a range of Covid-19 measures in place to ensure everyone can enjoy safely.”
For more information about Carmarthenshire leisure centres, to join or get advice about memberships, book slots to visit and more, visit www.actif.wales and search Actif Sport and Leisure on social media.
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