United Rugby Championship: Scarlets 31-25 Cardiff - Hosts claim first season win

Johnny McNicholl celebrated his 45th league try with his score against Cardiff
Johnny McNicholl celebrated his 45th league try with his score against Cardiff

United Rugby Championship: Scarlets v Cardiff

Scarlets (14) 31

Tries: Craig, McNicholl, G Davies, Fifita Cons: Lloyd 4 Pens: Lloyd

Cardiff (14) 25

Tries: Bevan, Carre, Cabango Cons: De Beer 2 Pens: De Beer 2

Scarlets claimed a first victory of the season against Cardiff in the United Rugby Championship Welsh derby in Llanelli.

Scarlets recorded a bonus-point win with tries from lock Alex Craig, full-back Johnny McNicholl, captain Gareth Davies and number eight Vaea Fifita,

Fly-half Ioan Lloyd kicked 11 points.

Cardiff responded with tries from scrum-half Ellis Bevan, prop Rhys Carre and wing Theo Cabango with fly-half Tinus de Beer adding 10 points.

It proved a welcome win for Dwayne Peel's side after Scarlets had returned from South Africa following two heavy defeats where they shipped 115 points and 17 tries.

Cardiff had lost the opening game against Benetton but defeated local rivals Dragons last weekend.

Fixture clash

This was Scarlets' first home league game for six months and designed commercially to be the second most lucrative game of the season, with the game attracting a crowd of 6,325.

It was played on the same day as Wales faced Barbarians at the Principality Stadium in an uncapped international which had an attendance of more than 53,000.

Both Scarlets and Cardiff were missing up to 15 players because of injury and international commitments.

Kieran Hardy, Tom Rogers, Taine Plumtree, Harri O'Connor, Sam Costelow and Johnny Williams were on Wales duty, while Ryan Elias, Josh Macleod, Sam Lousi, Dan Davis, Ryan Conbeer, Morgan Jones, Ken Owens, Samson Lee and Dan Jones were injured. Costelow also picked up a shoulder and hamstring injury on international duty.

Cardiff had Corey Domachowski, Keiron Assiratti, Teddy Williams, Tomos Williams and Mason Grady involved with Wales, while internationals Josh Turnbull, James Botham, Josh Adams and Taulupoe Faletau are on the sidelines.

Wales scrum-half Davies captained Scarlets for the first time after returning from the World Cup, with Tonga's Fifita also back from suspension.

Cardiff made eight alterations to the team with wing Harri Millard a late inclusion for his first start in two-and-a-half years.

The visitors opened the scoring with a well-worked move that also involved a lucky ricochet that rebounded into Millard's hands before the wing offloaded to supporting scrum-half Bevan.

Cardiff scrum-half Ellis Bevan scored the opening try against Scarlets
Cardiff scrum-half Ellis Bevan scored the opening try against Scarlets

Scarlets responded with a patient try for lock Craig, however their continued indiscipline allowed Cardiff to regain the ascendency.

After initially avoiding a yellow card, prop Kemsley Mathias was sin-binned by referee Adam Jones for persistent scrummaging offences. Cardiff took advantage of the extra man when prop Carre was driven over.

Scarlets again responded with a fine individual finish by full-back McNicholl who glided through the Cardiff defence.

Lloyd levelled the scores at 14-14 at half-time and Peel would have been delighted with that scoreline given Cardiff's first-half superiority.

De Beer restored Cardiff's lead early in the second half but Scarlets soaked up more pressure and hit their opponents on the break.

A clever chip from wing Steff Evans allowed scrum-half Davies to collect and dive over to give the home side the lead for the first time.

De Beer added a second penalty to reduce the deficit to a point before Davies turned provider when he released the rampaging Fifita who scored in the left corner.

Lloyd converted from the touchline and added a penalty as Scarlets appeared to have sealed victory.

However Cardiff responded with a clever chip from full-back Cameron Winnett to release Cabango who sprinted away to score.

The wing paid the price as he grounded the ball with an awkward fall forcing him off the field with a shoulder injury. It meant Cardiff were reduced to 14 having already used all their replacements.

Mindless play from Scarlets flanker Teddy Leatherbarrow resulted in him receiving a yellow card for a late challenge on Winnett and gave the visitors an opportunity of victory.

Fortunately for Leatherbarrow and Scarlets, it came to nothing for Cardiff with the home side clinching victory after that late scare.

Scarlets: Johnny McNicholl; Ioan Nicholas, Joe Roberts, Eddie James, Steff Evans; Ioan Lloyd, Gareth Davies (capt); Kemsley Mathias, Shaun Evans, Sam Wainwright, Alex Craig, Jac Price, Ben Williams, Teddy Leatherbarrow, Vaea Fifita.

Replacements: Isaac Young, Steff Thomas, Wyn Jones, Iwan Shenton, Carwyn Tuipulotu, Archie Hughes, Charlie Titcombe, Jonathan Davies.

Cardiff: Cameron Winnett; Harri Millard, Rey Lee-Lo, Ben Thomas, Theo Cabango; Tinus de Beer, Ellis Bevan; Rhys Carré, Liam Belcher (capt), Rhys Litterick, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Seb Davies, Alex Mann, Thomas Young, Lopeti Timani.

Replacements: Ethan Daniel, Rhys Barratt, Will Davies-King, Rory Thornton, Ellis Jenkins, Jamie Hill, Max Clark, Jacob Beetham.

Referee: Adam Jones (WRU)

Assistant referees: Elgan Williams & Keith David (WRU)

TMO: Jon Mason (WRU).