Scarlets and Saracens met for the second time in as many weeks at Parc y Scarlets last night, this time in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, as the reigning champions turned in a 32-17 win.
Though there wasn’t quite the drama of the European Rugby Champions Cup 22-22 draw, Wayne Pivac will have been pleased by the way his youngsters fought back in the second half.
Trailing 18-0 at half-time, Morgan Allen and Billy McBryde both crossed in the second period as Jack Maynard kicked five points.
With Premiership regulars Mike Ellery, Nick Tompkins, Titi Lamositele, Petrus du Plessis and the returning Will Fraser, Saracens were always going to be a tough prospect and after first-half scores from centre Tompkins and Matt Gallagher, Scarlets’ youngsters could have folded.
Instead Maynard began the fightback early in the second period from the tee, with Allen crashing over to pull them within eight points soon after.
— Billy McBryde (@BillyMcBryde) January 27, 2017
Ellery’s solo effort put the game beyond Scarlets, but former Wales Under-20 stand-off McBryde, son of Wales forwards coach Robin, enjoyed a fine eight-point cameo from the bench to suggest the future could be bright for Scarlets, something that was not lost on Scarlets coach Ioan Cunningham.
“Some credit has to be given to the group – we showed some great character to come back and scored a couple of tries,” Cunningham said.
“In the first half we probably lacked a bit of energy and physicality and we spoke about that at half-time, and I was really pleased we responded in the second half.
“Saracens are renowned defensively. They are and excellent outfit and they bring a lot of line speed. We possibly played into their hands a little bit with some ball in the air for too long.
“In the second half we carried a bit closer to the gainline and we got some rewards for that.”
Cardiff Blues came up against a near full-strength Sale Sharks side at the AJ Bell Stadium, losing out 41-3 in a tough night for Danny Wilson’s youngsters.
The young lads showed a lot of heart and congrats to all of the guys who had their 1st appearance for the @cardiff_blues.
— Cam Dolan (@Cam_Dolan) January 28, 2017
Laurence Pearce scored twice for Diamond’s men either side of half-time, while rugby league convert Denny Solomona crossed for yet another try since his mid-season move to the AJ Bell.
Neil Briggs, James Flynn and Jonathan Mills also profited from Sale’s powerful pack, while a late penalty try added gloss to the scoreline.
Despite the result, Richard Hodges was left proud with the way a side full of debutants performed against grizzled opposition.
He said: “I was pretty proud if I’m honest because there was a mismatch in terms of the selection.
“We’ve had a whole load of boys make their Cardiff Blues debut tonight from tier two of our academy.
“We can be quite disappointed with some of the detail that was lacking, but we asked for a massive amount of work-rate and effort and we got that.
“I thought that the effort they put in defensively was good, although I was disappointed with a couple of tries, particularly the last one.”
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017, 27th May, Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Ticket Information: Fans can still avail of an exclusive number of €30 tickets. Book via www.ticketmaster.ie. Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final