Scarlets pulled off a deserved 25-16 win over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium to put them in an excellent position in the LV=Cup competition with nine points from their first two matches.
In contrast, with two defeats, no points and games against Gloucester and Northampton to come, the Irish have little hope of progressing to the knockout stage. Irish went ahead after only six minutes with an excellent try, which belied the difficult playing conditions.
Chris Malone put the Scarlets defence on the back foot with a neat chip over the top which was collected by Daniel Bowden. When the centre was hauled down in the visitors' 22, the Exiles produced some excellent passing to send Elvis Sevreali'i through a huge gap for the try which Malone converted.
The Scarlets had their first chance to open their account when the Irish were penalised at a ruck and from near halfway Steven Shingler fired over an excellent penalty. The outside half then added another after Martin Roberts was high tackled by Irish number eight Chris Hala'ufia but Malone responded with one for the Irish to make it 10-6 at end of the first quarter.
Ben Morgan made a strong run for the Scarlets before being brought down by a good tackle from Steffon Armitage. However, the Irish flanker was then penalised for diving over the top and once again Shingler kicked the goal.
The Welsh side shaded the first half-hour in terms of possession and territory and deservedly took the lead for the first time when Shingler kicked his fourth penalty after the Irish were penalised at a scrum in their own 22. After 34 minutes, Malone restored the advantage to his side with a 30-metre penalty which resulted in an interval score of 13-12 to the Irish.
When Irish full back, Jamie Leonard, was penalised for not releasing early in the second half, it allowed the Scarlets to build up their best period of pressure of the match. Shingler made a neat break which gave the visitors their momentum and Scott Williams appeared to have crossed the line for a try.
The referee, Greg Garner, appeared to award the score but then referred it to the TMO, who after a very lengthy deliberation ruled it out. The Scarlets continued to maintain their pressure and had a further chance to regain their lead but Shingler missed his first kick with a 35-metre penalty attempt.
After 15 minutes of almost constant pressure the Irish relieved the situation and Malone extended the Irish lead with another penalty in the 57th minute. This success was immediately offset by the loss of replacement, Richard Thorpe, to the sin bin for tackling Scarlets full back Daniel Evans in the air.
The loss of Thorpe immediately proved costly as from a scrum 35 metres out from the home line, Ben Morgan and Martin Roberts combined well to send Lee Williams over for the try which Shingler converted and then, with six minutes to go, added another penalty.
Malone missed a crucial penalty with five minutes to go before Shingler knocked over a superb penalty from inside his own half to seal a notable win.