Scarlets 32 – 30 Connacht

A second half comeback from Connacht Rugby saw Pat Lam’s men score four impressive tries in 25 minutes to secure their fourth try bonus point in a row. Despite the response, Scarlets held on for the two-point victory and kept their dreams of a possible top four finish alive.

The hosts’ second minute try caught Connacht off guard as Scarlets made the most of a quick tap and go penalty. British & Irish Lions centre Jonathan Davies cruised in over the line for the early score which was converted by Welsh international Rhys Priestland.

Soon after, Scarlets were penalised for offside and Dan Parks cut the margin to just four points with his first kick at goal.

Priestland, who was inconsistent from the kicking tee, sent the next penalty kick wide of the posts on 15 minutes.

Winger Fionn Carr intercepted a Scarlets pass and managed to make some yards down field before the hosts had time to scramble back.  Parks saw an opportunity to kick cross field and it could have resulted in a score but the ball found touch before winger Tiernan O’Halloran could get to it.

Parks brought it to a one-point game when Denis Buckley, without the ball, was shoved in the back. The league’s highest points scorer split the posts to make it 7 – 6.  Two minutes later Priestland replied with a penalty kick between the posts when Connacht were penalised by referee Neil Paterson for holding on. Not long after, the Scarlets forced a penalty from the scrum but their outhalf hit the posts. He made up for it with a three-pointer not long before the break.

Connacht had a chance late on in the opening half and started to really threaten with ball in hand. Carrying it out of the 22, Carr showed his pace on the wing but couldn’t catch up with his chip forward.

Half time score: Scarlets 13 – 6 Connacht

Priestland saw another of his penalty attempts hit the posts on 44 minutes but he was on target when converting his half back partner’s try five minutes later. Picking up the ball from the back of a scrum, Gareth Davies, went over under the posts for his ninth try of the season.

Connacht were left stunned when the Scarlets followed it up with another score three minutes later. Scrambling back to defend under pressure in their own 22, winger Kristian Phillips was fed the ball and made a break to the half way line where he offloaded to flanker Josh Turnbull to finish it off. Priestland missed the conversion.

Connacht hit back immediately through a Kieran Marmion try. The province’s top try scorer of the season showed his quick thinking to take a tap and go and squeeze in over the line from five metres out.  Parks last kick at the posts before being replaced was wide and the score line read 25 – 11 with 20 minutes remaining.

Replacement outhalf Miah Nikora showed his instant contribution after coming on, pinning the opposition back with a penalty kicked to the corner. The forwards hammered the line but the Scarlets’ defence held them out. The ball went out wide to a patient Darragh Leader who ran past three defenders to cross the line. But the last tackle had forced his foot into touch, denying the visitors the try.

However, turning over the Scarlets ball following a long lineout throw allowed Nikora to send a beautiful chip towards the corner for the onrushing Carr to catch and dot down. The left-footed kicker knocked over the difficult conversion to cut the deficit to just seven points.

Three minutes later, Irish international Robbie Henshaw finished off a fantastic team try. Michael Swift, on his 178th league appearance, found room down the right wing and timed a perfect pass to Henshaw who handed off Jonathan Davies to crash over in the corner. Nikora had to convert from the touchline to level the scores but his kick drifted just short.

With three minutes left on the clock, Scarlets fought their way into the Connacht 22 and recycled the ball well to allow replacement back Gareth Maule stretch his arm over for his side’s vital bonus-point try. Priestland added the conversion to bring his tally of the day to 12 points.

However, Connacht never gave up and showed their resilience right to the end. Strong work by Henshaw who beat five Scarlets’ defenders allowed him to pass to Galway-man Eoin McKeon who touched down behind the posts to secure Connacht’s fourth successive try bonus point.

Time had run out, however, and Scarlets ensured their campaign for a top six finish was kept on track, the Welsh side securing the maximum five points at Parc y Scarlets today.

Full time score: Scarlets 32 – 30 Connacht

SCARLETS: L Williams; K Phillips, J Davies, Barkley, J Williams; Priestland, G Davies; John, Owens, R Jones; Ball, Snyman; Turnbull, Barclay, Timani. Replacements: Kelly for Ball (41 mins), R Williams for G Davies, R Evans for John, E Phillips for Owens (all 57 mins), Maule for Barkley (68 mins), Pungea for R Jones (74 mins), Rawlins for Barclay (78 mins). Not used: A Thomas.

CONNACHT: Henshaw; O’Halloran, E Griffin, McSharry, Carr; Parks, Marmion; Buckley, Harris-Wright, Ah You; Muldowney, Kearney; Muldoon, Masteron, McKeon, Browne. Replacements: White for Ah You (47 mins), Swift for Kearney (51 mins), Heffernan for Harris-Wright, Browne for Masteron (both 54 mins), Loughney for Browne (63 mins), Nikora for Parks (66 mins), D Leader for O’Halloran (69 mins). Not used: F Murphy.

Attendance: 6, 111

Referee:  Neil Paterson (SRU)

Man of the Match: Liam Williams, Scalrets

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