Match Report: Scarlets win a thriller against Bath

Parc y Scarlets - Pic by James Dodd

IT WAS delight for Scarlets on their 150th appearance in Europe as they saw off Bath in an intriguing encounter at the Rec. 

Two tries – one for Gareth Davies on his 200th appearance in Scarlets colours – and 13 points from the boot of Leigh Halfpenny was enough for the Welsh side to claim victory on their historic day.

Bath scored two tries of their own and came inches away from winning as the clock struck red but it will be a night of what could have been for the home side.

It was Bath who put the first points on the board in the tie as Scarlets and Leigh Halfpenny were penalised for being offside after McConnochie who broke away. Ben Spencer split the uprights to put the home side 3-0 up.

Scarlets were looking shakey at the start as their opponents were quick out of the blocks, but it would be a tail of the game as their defence stood strong as they won a penalty at the scrum after good work from Wales’ Samson Lee.

Continuing to soak up the early pressure, it would be the visitors who crossed the whitewash first through none other than milestone-hitting Gareth Davies.

An exchange of passes ended up with Halfpenny who offloaded to Steff Evans. The winger cut in from his position and offloaded to Davies who’s step left the final Bath defender for dead and touched down. Dan Jones added the extras.

On the way the first half had been going, Bath deserved a try and it came on 20 minutes through a terrific Ruaridh McConnochie try. England’s Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson and Sam Underhill were all involved with some fantastic handling in the build-up as Bath jumped into the lead.

Welsh internationals Taulupe Faletau and Jake Ball both failed HIA’s following a collision earlier in the half before another of their countries teammates, Lee, also limped off with an injury.

The two sides then traded penalties as Spencer first kicked three points after Wyn Jones collapsed the scrum. The boot of Halfpenny then added three points for the Scarlets before Spencer had an easy kick in front of the post after Evans was penalised for being offside.

The first points of the second period came from Halfpenny after pinning Bath in their own five-metre line. The home side quickly turned to attack, bursting into the Scarlets half and looked certain to score a try but the one-booted Davies made a superb tackle to force Joe Cokanasiga out of play.

Their hard work and pressure would tell soon after as they did cross the line for their second try. McConnochie tried to sneak in but was stopped, but the pack then did the rest. England international Will Stuart ended up with the ball in hand and touched down. 19-13 Bath after the kick was missed.

Bath looked in control, continuing to pressure the Scarlets’ defence but their Welsh counterparts continued to stand strong, winning a penalty that would turn into a try. A kick into the Bath 22, a few passes later and a superb offload from Rob Evans set Wales’ newest superstar, Kieran Hardy in for the try.

That try seemed to kick Scarlets into a new gear. Some more terrific handling saw the ever-dangerous Steff Evans break away, resulting in a missed penalty from Halfpenny and then Hardy was again involved, breaking away with Evans running alongside him. His pass was behind the onrushing winger and out for a Bath lineout.

Scarlets added three more points with minutes remaining in what looked to be enough to get them over the finish line but Bath attempted to rip that script up with phase after phase of pressure at their opponents try line.

The visitors would hold on, though, with a try saving tackle from Jac Morgan that the TMO would look at for a good few minutes. That loss extended Bath’s winless record in Europe to over two years.

Bath’s next game in the Champions Cup is away at La Rochelle, whilst the Scarlets host French giants Toulon in Llanelli next weekend.