Scarlets kick-started their LV= Cup campaign with a gritty 22-16 victory over Cardiff Blues at Parc y Scarlets.
Though a far from glamorous contest it was a perfect response to last week’s 34-18 defeat to Worcester Warriors, condemning the Blues to their sixth defeat in seven games.
It was the combined kicking efforts of Gareth Owen and Aled Thomas which got Scarlets over the line, with a penalty try in the 35th minute the least they deserved after dominating possession for much of the match.
Luke Hamilton’s first-half try had seemingly put the Blues in control but their performance was plagued with indiscipline, with Sam Hobbs and the try scorer sin-binned in either half.
And though they trailed for much of the contest Scarlets, who were missing ten players to international duty, dominated possession throughout.
They marked their intent from the first minute, enjoying a good spell of pressure and going ahead through Owen – the fly-half making amends for an earlier miss by knocking over in the sixth minute.
But Cardiff took the initiative and scored with their first real advance into Scarlets territory through flanker Tom Hamilton.
Gareth Davies found a gap in the Scarlets backline on half way and found Gavin Evans outside him, the centre drawing the tackle of Owen to release Hamilton unopposed across the line.
Davies added the extra points to give Blues a 7-3 lead with 18 minutes played.
The Blues pushed for a second and their pressure was rewarded after Owens was penalised for not rolling away, Davies successful with the penalty to extend the lead to seven.
But the visitors were soon down to 14 men, prop Sam Hobbs sin binned for a deliberate late shoulder barge on full-back Liam Williams.
Cardiff were not deterred by their man disadvantage, building a patient spell of possession which eventually resulted in another three points from Davies’ boot.
With two minutes of Hobbs ’ sin-bin remaining Scarlets finally got the breakthrough, referee JP Doyle having no option but to award a penalty try after Cardiff were repeatedly penalised for collapsing the scrum.
Owen slotted the conversion to take Scarlets within three points.
Full-back Williams then took over kicking duties for the home side, missing from distance after Scarlets were penalised for not releasing.
But he made amends on the stroke of half time after Andy Fenby’s interception had taken them into kicking range, finding target with a simpler kick as the Blues were penalised again at the breakdown to make it 13-13 at the interval.
But the status quo lasted two minutes after the break, Davies maintaining his 100 per cent record with a successful long-range penalty.
Scarlets continued to build pressure and were using the ball to good effect, but were unable to break through a stubborn Blues defence inside the 22.
Despite being pinned back in their own half Cardiff maintained their three-point lead, replacement Thomas, who had come on for Owen, failing to find the distance from a kick from the halfway line.
But the miss was not a sign of things to come, and Thomas found target with a 65th-minute effort to level proceedings before edging Simon Easterby’s side in front as the Blues penalty count at the breakdown soared.
And Scarlets were able to open the advantage further after Luke Hamilton was yellow-carded for persistent breakdown infringements, Thomas adding another to make it 22-16 with ten minutes to go.
Davies had the chance to set up a grandstand finish seven minutes from time but his penalty hit the upright and fell the wrong side, and Scarlets saw out the final minutes to record a deserved victory.