Scarlets 25 Leinster 14 (PRO12): Leinster endured a miserable evening in west Wales as Leo Cullen’s side were well beaten by the in-form Scarlets.
As with the opening weekend defeat at Edinburgh, Leinster failed to perform on the road and consolations scores from Isa Nacewa and James Tracy could not gloss over a difficult night.
The hosts seized the initiative from the off and rarely relinquished it as a brace of tries for debutant DTH van der Merwe and a further score from James Davies, plus 10 points from Steven Shingler’s boot made it four out of four for the Guinness Pro12’s early pacesetters.
A lot of the damage was self-inflicted and the visitors could hardly have made a worse start as they trailed 8-0 inside the opening 10 minutes.
Firstly the men in blue were blasted off their own ball at a ruck and strayed offside to allow Shingler to knock over a long-range penalty.
Then some poor first up tackling paved the way for the Scarlets opening try. Centre Gareth Owen and wing Hadleigh Parkes were allowed to make far too many yards from standing starts, and the hosts took full advantage.
Lock George Earle carried the attack into the Leinster 22, and when the ball was moved left there was a hug overlap which flanker Davies finished off from Barclay’s regulation pass. Shingler missed the conversion and Leinster finally began to establish a foothold.
Fly-half Ross Byrne, making his first Leinster start, enjoyed having some front-foot ball to use and his lovely loop and pass sent Gary Ringrose deep in Scarlets territory, but they could not make the overlap play as Parkes bundled Nacewa into touch in the corner.
It seemed a case of when, rather than if, the try would come but instead it was the hosts who struck a crucial blow.
A decoy move had created space on the left-hand side of the Scarlets defence, but Noel Reid’s pass fell into the arms of Van der Merwe and the Canadian, fresh from his World Cup exploits, needed no second invitation to race 80 metres for a debut try in the Welsh region’s colours.
It was the former Glasgow man’s 36th try in the Pro 12, and Shingler’s conversion made it 15-0 to leave the Irishmen facing a long road back at the interval.
Matters only got worse as the Scarlets kicked off the second-half with an excellent attack with backs and forwards interlinking to march into the 22 where Reid dived off his feet to prevent quick ball and was binned.
Leinster were hanging on for grim death, but they could not see out the 10 minutes. The Scarlets battered away at the line until Regan King’s lovely pass sent Van der Merwe in for his second of the night.
Shingler rubbed salt into the wound with his second penalty, although Leinster did at least have the consolation of not being kept scoreless thanks to Nacewa’s consolation, before a controlledrolling maul allowed Tracy to dot down in the dying moments to give the scoreline some respectability.
Thomas; Parkes, King, Owen (T Williams 73), Van der Merwe; S Shingler, A Davies (R Williams 62); Evans (John 69), Myhill (Elias 69), Edwards (Taylor 58), Earle, Price, A Shingler (Condy 64), J Davies, Barclay (Phillips 75).
Tries – J Davies, Van der Merwe 2; Conversions – Shingler 2; Penalties – Shingler 2.
Nacewa; Ringrose, O’Shea (M McGrath 55), Reid, McFadden; R Byrne (L McGrath 64), Boss (Marsh 64); Bent (Dooley 58), B Byrne (Tracy 58), Moore (Hagan 58), Molony, Denton (Beirne 75), D Ryan, Van der Flier, Leavy (T Ryan 58).
– Nacewa, Tracy; Conversions – McFadden 2
Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU)
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