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Evans shines as Scarlets consolidate fourth with Zebre triumph

Steff Evans turned in a dazzling try-scoring performance for Scarlets as they claimed a vital bonus-point 42-7 home win against Zebre to remain fourth in the Guinness PRO12.

Wayne Pivac’s side claimed a pivotal league win over Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun last Friday and they clearly sensed the chance to compound their top-four spot with a bonus-point win at home to bottom-place Zebre, kicking to the corner repeatedly early on.

After two near misses, Evans scored the opener with just under 15 minutes gone and though Mattia Bellini’s converted try levelled the scores ten minutes later, Aaron Shingler, and Tom Williams both crossed to put the hosts 21-7 up at the break.

Lock Tom Price got the critical bonus-point score on 50 minutes before the hosts’ pack earned them an even healthier buffer with a penalty try following huge scrum pressure before Will Boyd bamboozled the Zebre defence to cross from a lineout at Parc y Scarlets .

And with Glasgow Warriors set to play Ulster at Kingspan stadium tomorrow, Pivac’s side could see the gap to fifth stay at eight points heading into Round 16.

James Davies, man of the match against Gregor Townsend’s side, showed his breakdown expertise after just 90 seconds with a textbook turnover as Scarlets applied the pressure early doors.

A drop from Jones handed Zebre a reprieve before Tom Williams looked to have crossed, only to be pulled back for a Johnny McNicholl knock-on.

The breakthrough came on 13 minutes when Scarlets refused another shot at goal and kicked to the corner, with the sustained pressure eventually telling with Evans diving over in the corner and Jones converting from the touchline.

Giulio Bisegni almost mustered a reply for Zebre, capitalising on a failed Scarlets attack to kick ahead with no cover defence in place for Pivac’s side, but the ball rolled in to touch.

Bellini then made good on that promise, racing over from a strong Zebre scrum that came from aScarlets’ mix-up in the back field, with Marcello Violi knocking the conversion over.

That sparked Scarlets into life, turning down another close-range penalty and opting instead to scrum, Shingler picking a plum line from a short pass to cross for their second converted try.

Tadhg Beirne then picked up on a loose Zebre pass, kicking ahead and watching the ball bobble kindly for Williams, sitting up perfectly for the wing to race over before Jones’ conversion took them 21-7 ahead at the break.

A thrilling break from Will Boyd threatened to cut Zebre open early in the second period only for the attack to stall following a handling error.

Shingler had a hand in Scarlets’ all-important bonus-point score, powering towards the line before second-row Price snaffled a pass to barrel over on 50 minutes.

The hosts then well and truly put the game to bed with a penalty try on 63 minutes. following huge scrum pressure, that the ever-reliable Jones converted for a 35-7 lead.

Boyd had been threatening all half and eventually earned a reward for his industrious attacking work, sneaking over after a lineout move for Scarlets’ sixth of the evening that Aled Thomas converted.

The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin on May 27, 2017. Tickets for the Guinness PRO12 Final are available via ticketmaster.ie with a limited number of great value €35 tickets still remaining. Or get in at the top level with Premium, starting at only €70. www.pro12rugby.com/final

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