It was the poor start to the season for Connacht Rugby as they failed to get a losing bonus point away to Scarlets.
|Pro14: Scarlets v Connacht|
|Scarlets (12) 18|
|Tries: S Evans, Asquith Cons: Jones Pens: Jones 2|
|Connacht (3) 10|
|Tries: Masterson Cons: Fitzgerald Pens: Fitzgerald|
Scarlets were missing a total of 15 players to the World Cup but Connacht coach Andy Friend said many times in the pre-match press conference that his team would not let this affect them. But unfortunately, they never looked up to the pace of the game and a lot of the players didn’t quite perform to the standard required.
First-half tries from Steff Evans and Paul Asquith built a lead for the home side, with Connacht only scoring one penalty to trail 12-3 at half time.
With conditions deteriorating after the break Jones pushed the Scarlets further ahead with a penalty after Connacht centre Tom Daly was sin binned for deliberately knocking on.
But, reduced to 14 men the Irish side clawed their way back into it with a close-range try from blindside flanker Masterson and conversion from Fitzgerald after 55 minutes. This got the Connacht within five points, but they gave away a silly penalty soon after and that was the last score of the game. Connacht had to leave Wales without any points.
When Friend talks to the press on Tuesday he may blame the weather, but he might be better off looking at a few of his players. There were many questions asked about the eight signings made by Connacht and this result may well have confirmed the worry for many Connacht fans that there is a lack of experience at the top level.
Scarlets head coach Brad Mooar said: “I’m really chuffed. The boys have worked really hard and had a strong focus on how we’d start and they really did themselves proud.
“They played smart. It was easier playing without the ball than with it tonight. They stayed disciplined to the game plan we talked about in difficult conditions.
“They stuck at it and we felt if we got ahead with a couple of scores it would be a really difficult night to chase the game down.
“We’ve had four new coaches working really hard and two weeks since our last pre-season to prepare and the boys have done a great job so we’re pleased to get the competition underway.!
SCORING SEQUENCE – 19 mins: S Evans try 5-0; 34: P Asquith try, D Jones con 12-0; 36: C Fitzgerald pen 12-3. HT 12-3. 44: D Jones pen 15-3; 55: E Masterson try, C Fitzgerald con 15-10; 58: D Jones pen 18-10.
SCARLETS: H McNicholl; R Conbeer, S Hughes (capt), P Asquith, D Jones; K Hardy, R Evans; M Jones, S Lee, S Cummins; L Rawlins, T Phillips; J Macleod, Y Cassiem.
Replacements: P Price for Evans (51 mins), J Helps for Cummins (56), C Baldwin for Conbeer (60) T Davies for M Jones, W Kruger for S Lee (both 63).
CONNACHT: T O’Halloran; S Fitzgerald, K Godwin, T Daly, M Healy; C Fitzgerald, C Blade; P McAllister, T McCartney, F Bealham; G Thornbury, Q Roux; E Masterson, C Fainga’a, J Butler.
Replacements: E McKeon for Faianga’a (35 mins), D Buckley for McAllster (45), D Leader for Healy (46), K Marmion for Blade, U Dillane for McKeon (both 50), S Delahunt for McCartney, D Robertson-McCoy for Bealham (both 56), P Robb for Daly (65).
Referee: Stuart Berry (SARU)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge (SARU), Mike English (WRU)