Pro14: Leinster 22-17 Scarlets
|Pro14: Leinster v Scarlets|
|Leinster (10) 22|
|Tries: O'Loughlin, Lowe, Daly Cons: Frawley 2 Pen: Frawley|
|Scarlets (0) 17|
|Try: Hardy 2 Cons: Jones 2 Pen: Jones|
Leinster maintained their 100% home record this season with a five-point win over a wasteful Scarlets in Dublin.
Rory O'Loughlin and Kieran Hardy traded scores before two tries in three minutes from James Lowe and Barry Daly put the hosts in the ascendency.
Hardy responded instantly for Scarlets who will feel that they could have left the RDS with more than just a losing bonus-point.
Leinster remain way out in front at the top of Pro14 Conference B.
Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac will be left scratching his head as to how his side failed to capitalise on the better territory they enjoyed throughout the encounter, particularly in the first half that finished without the visitors putting any points on the board.
By contrast, Leinster's time spent inside their opponents' 22 was kept to a minimum, but the champions showed a clinical edge to come away from all their attacking positions with points to show.
Vital minutes for Six Nations hopefuls
With both sides missing their core of international players, Pivac and his opposite number Leo Cullen were forced into testing their squad depth.
Cullen could however call on full-back Rob Kearney and loose-head prop Jack McGrath, who were both released by Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt for the week in order to get some much-needed game time as they continue their comeback from injury.
Similarly Wales fans will be heartened by the fact that Six Nations squad member Jake Ball played the full 80 minutes on his return from injury a week before their tournament begins against France in Paris.
The lock had not played since suffering a shoulder injury against Ospreys on 22 December.
Scarlets masters of their own downfall
In a first half higher on quality than the 10-0 half-time scoreline suggests, the Scarlets routinely caused the Leinster defence problems.
However, a series of knock-ons, including three from Keiron Fonotia, let their opponents off the hook when their backs were against the wall.
Harding was also penalised for a neck-roll when attempting a clear-out with the ball just inches away from Leinster's try-line.
O'Loughlin held off three tacklers to score the game's opening try in the last play of the first half as the hosts forced their way into opposition territory for only the second time.
Merely a minute after the break Scarlets looked to have hit back with Paul Asquith's intercept try, however the winger inexplicably spilled it forward while diving over the line in an incident emblematic of Scarlet's carelessness.
Lowe and Daly finished well in the corners to push Leinster ahead with 10 minutes remaining before Hardy's instant response ensured a frantic finish.
Scarlets boss Wayne Pivac said: "We created some opportunities in the first half and didn't convert.
"We had three clean line-breaks and need to convert at least one of those.
"So to be 10 points down at half time was pretty disappointing.
"But everything we talked about at half-time the guys put into practice and we got ourselves back into the game."
Leinster: Rob Kearney (capt); Barry Daly, Rory O'Loughlin, Conor O'Brien, James Lowe; Ciarán Frawley, Hugh O'Sullivan; Jack McGrath, James Tracy, Michael Bent; Ross Molony, Mick Kearney; Max Deegan, Scott Penny, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Ed Byrne, Vakh Abdaladze, Jack Dunne, Oisín Dowling, Jamison Gibson-Park, Noel Reid, Jimmy O'Brien.
Scarlets: Johnny McNicholl; Ioan Nicholas, Keiron Fonotia, Steff Hughes (capt), Paul Asquith; Dan Jones, Kieran Hardy; Phil Price, Marc Jones, Werner Kruger, Jake Ball, David Bulbring, Tom Price, Dan Davies, Josh Macleod.
Replacements: Dafydd Hughes, Dylan Evans, Simon Gardiner, Josh Helps, Ed Kennedy, Jonathan Evans, Morgan Williams, Tom Prydie.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (IRFU), Vincenzo Schipani (FIR)
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)