The Scarlets’ preparations for the new Magners League season continued at the weekend with a trip to Aviva Premiership outfit Gloucester.
Having finished second from bottom in the Magners League last time out, head coach Nigel Davies and new forwards coach Robin McBryde would have been looking for signs of improvement at Kingsholm.
And despite being well beaten in the West Country, the duo will have at least taken heart from the individual efforts of a number of young players after naming what was an experimental side for the first of three pre-season ties.
Davies opted not to include the likes of Lions stars Stephen Jones and Matthew Rees, former Wallaby No8 David Lyons, new Samoan signing Jonny Fa'amatuainu and Scotland back Sean Lamont, while he also left out a host of up and coming talent such as centre Jonathan Davies, scrum-half Tavis Knoyle and hooker Ken Owens.
After a bright opening, the Scarlets were largely outplayed by a more experienced Gloucester side who adapted well to the wet conditions to claim a 26-6 win.
The Scarlets backline threatened in the opening quarter, but it was Gloucester who struck first against the run of play.
On their first visit deep into opposition territory, prop Nick Wood gathered the ball at the back of a Gloucester line out and set the platform for Fijian flanker Akapusi Qera to drive his way through the middle of the Scarlets defence for the opening score, which Tim Taylor converted.
The Scarlets responded immediately after Gloucester were penalised in front of the posts from the re-start and fly half Steve Shingler kicked the three points.
Playing into the driving rain, the Scarlets continued to pile on the pressure and were rewarded with another Shingler penalty to bring themselves to within one point of their hosts with 20 minutes gone.
While the Welsh side dominated territory, they lacked execution and Gloucester used their dominance in the scrum to relieve their defensive pressure.
As the half continued Gloucester grew in confidence and forced their way into the game. On the eve of half time, Lesley Vainikolo was replaced by Johnny May and the England Under 20 wing made an immediate impact, coming close to touching down on two occasions before finishing off a well worked move out wide to take Gloucester into the break with a 12-6 lead.
The Scarlets rang the changes at half time and looked disjointed as Gloucester came out much the brighter and pinned their opponents back in the opening exchanges.
Debutant Bret Deacon put his marker down for the season, making countless inroads to the weakening Scarlets defence. Gloucester repeatedly shunned the chance for three points in search of the try line and were rewarded in the 52nd minute when hooker Darren Dawidiuk picked up and drove over from close range in a carbon Qera’s first-half effort, with Taylor again adding the conversion.
The Scarlets started to drop off their first-up tackles, with Tim Molenaar and then Taylor capitalising. Taylor’s break took Gloucester into the 22 and Charlie Sharples raced through to collect Henry Trinder’s chip ahead to score in the corner with Taylor converting from the touchline.
The Scarlets now head back home to face further English opposition in the form of Worcester Warriors and Exeter Chiefs to conclude their pre-season campaign, before kicking off the new Magners League campaign away to Italian new boys Benetton Treviso.
Gloucester: R Mills, C Sharples, T Molenaar (H Trinder, 50), E Fuimaono-Sapolu (N Robinson, 62), L Vainikolo (J May 37mins), T Taylor, J Pasqual (D Lewis, 48), N Wood, D Dawidiuk (O Azam, 57), P Capdevielle (R Harden, 54) , D Attwood (M Cox, 48), A Brown, P Buxton , A Qera (A Hazell, 54), B Deacon (A, Strokosch, 65). (Reps): Y Thomas, A Dickinson
Scorers: Tries: Qera, May, Dawidiuk, Sharples; Cons: Taylor (3)
Llanelli Scarlets: D Evans, G North, G Maule (N Reynolds, 40), S Williams (J Ajuwa, 62), A Fenby, S Shingler (D Ford, 68), M Roberts (G Davies, 40), P John, E Philips (O Evans, 40), R Thomas (P Edwards, 62), L Reed, D Day (V Cooper, 40), D Welch (N Cudd, 74), J Edwards (R Pugh, 65), B Morgan. (Reps): R Lawrence
Scorers: Pens: Shingler (2)