Pro12: Scarlets 15-10 Blues
|Guinness Pro12: Scarlets v Blues|
|Scarlets (8) 15|
|Tries: Evans, Williams Con: Patchell Pen: Patchell|
|Cardiff Blues (3) 10|
|Try: Halaholo Con: Shingler Pen: Shingler|
Scarlets completed the season's Pro12 double over Cardiff Blues in a compelling New Year's Day derby on a bitterly cold Llanelli afternoon.
The hosts led 15-3 early in the second half thanks to outstanding tries by Steffan Evans and Scott Williams.
Blues hit back with a fabulous Willis Halaholo touchdown to set up a tense final quarter.
But Aled Thomas missed a late penalty and a snap drop-goal attempt as Scarlets held on to claim the points.
The win takes Scarlets into fourth place - as they have won more games than Glasgow Warriors - with Blues' losing bonus point leaving them seventh.
Blues made a late change with New Zealander Nick Williams pulling out because of a tight calf, Ellis Jenkins drafted into the blindside and Josh Navidi moving to number eight.
With six flankers making up the two back rows it made for a competitive battle at the breakdown in an entertaining opening half.
Despite the enterprise shown by both teams behind the scrum, the only try of the before the break came when Evans dummied his way past the Blues defence and ran in from 35 metres after fine work by Rhys Patchell and Johnny McNicholl.
Good breaks by Patchell and Thomas for the Scarlets, and Matthew Morgan and Steven Shingler, for the Blues came to nothing as scrambling defences got the better of the attackers.
But Scarlets wasted no time after the interval, with Scott Williams denied by a superb Rhun Williams tackle before the Wales centre did get on the scoreboard after a brilliant move.
Again Evans was prominent, breaking the defence before feeding Jonathan Davies, whose long pass inside allowed Williams to canter over at the posts.
Blues hit back with their own cracker, with Shingler and Lloyd Williams combining well before Halaholo sidestepped past the final defender to claim the Blues' first try.
Shingler's conversion was the last scoring action of the match, but there was plenty of frantic activity with McNicholl's interception of a Josh Navidi pass the key moment as Blues threatened to spoil the New Year's party in west Wales.
Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac:
"The feeling at the end of the game was just one of relief really after a short turnaround. You look back on those Toulon matches and it has taken a bit of a toll on the squad and we've picked up a few injuries but we got through it and I'm very pleased.
"That result has just kept us in touch with the top four and put a bit of a gap between ourselves and the Blues now which is important."
Blues coach Danny Wilson:
"I think we created enough opportunities by playing some pretty good rugby at times and had a lion's share of the game, but ultimately they converted two of three or four line breaks to our eight and we converted one.
"That's a major frustration and in many areas we certainly delivered today."
Scarlets: Aled Thomas; Johnny Mcnicholl, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams [c], Steff Evans, Rhys Patchell, Jonathan Evans; Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Samson lee, Jake Ball, Lewis Rawlins, Tadhg Beirne, Will Boyde, John Barclay
Replacements; Emyr Phillips, Rob Evans, Werner Kruger, Tom Price, Josh Macleod, Gareth Davies, Dan Jones, Hadleigh Parkes
Blues: Matthew Morgan; Alex Cuthbert, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Rhun Williams; Steve Shingler, Lloyd Williams; Rhys Gill, Kristian Dacey, Taufa'ao Filise, Macauley Cook, James Down, Josh Navidi, Sam Warburton (C), Nick Williams
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Brad Thyer, Scott Andrews, Jarrad Hoeata, Ellis Jenkins, Tomos Williams, Nicky Robinson, Cory Allen.
Man of the Match: Steff Evans (Scarlets) - the 22-year-old wing scored a beauty and made another with his skilful running and handling.
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistant referees: Craig Evans (WRU) Jon Hardy (WRU).
TMO: Paul Adams (WRU).