Pro14: Edinburgh 46-7 Scarlets - Rampant hosts inflict Welsh region's first loss of season

By Jamie LyallBBC Scotland
Duhan van der Merwe scores a try for Edinburgh
Duhan van der Merwe cruised over for two early tries before completing his treble late on
Edinburgh (26) 46
Tries: Van der Merwe 3, Willemse 2, Bennett, Sau Cons: Hickey 3, Van der Walt Pen: Hickey
Scarlets (0) 7
Try: M Jones Con: D Jones

Duhan van der Merwe scored a hat-trick as Edinburgh inflicted Scarlets' first defeat of the Pro14 season and climbed above them to third in Conference A.

Van der Merwe's first two were followed by Mike Willemse and Mark Bennett to net the hosts a first-half bonus point.

Scarlets' first points came through a Marc Jones try on the hour.

But Willemse bagged a second score, before Van der Merwe ran in his third and Eroni Sau got a debut try to round off an emphatic victory.

Swaggering Scott & Bennett finding their groove

To the grunt and endeavour of the early days under Richard Cockerill, Edinburgh have now added some serious attacking gears.

The bull-headed little coach was never really able to field a healthy and battle-ready Matt Scott and Mark Bennett, his premier centre pairing, last term. The two of them, at last, are simultaneously fit and snarling and what a lift they give this backline.

A barnstorming Edinburgh display was laced with effervescent running, delicate handling and sumptuous flourishes from the midfield pair.

Bennett sent Ally Miller striding deep into the Scarlets 22 in the lead-up to Van der Merwe's opener, the flanker finding Pyrgos, whose looping pass put the hulking winger in.

Straight from the kick-off, Nick Haining blasted through a tackle and strode off on a trademark high-stepping rampage. Scott flicked inside to Blair Kinghorn then got the return ball from the loping full-back, finding his centre partner to give Van der Merwe another run-in.

Simon Hickey popped over the extras and did likewise when, splintering off a maul, Willemse batted away Kieran Hardy as a grizzly bear might swat aside a bluebottle and trundled in.

Hardy himself was denied a third try in two games, the scoring pass from hooker Taylor Davies adjudged to have gone forward after an intricate first-phase manoeuvre.

Instead, it was the prolific Bennett who hoovered up his fifth of the season, applying a silky finish to another phase of swashbuckling attack. The ball fizzed beautifully between Scott, Pyrgos and Miller, before it was recycled for Bennett to dummy and slalom under the posts. Hickey chipped over the extras.

This was the Bennett of old, the Bennett of Glasgow's greatest days under Gregor Townsend and the breakthrough player of the year nominee following the 2015 World Cup, before heinous knee injuries cut him down.

For Edinburgh, it was predatory stuff; the bonus point in the bag and a 26-0 lead against an unbeaten foe.

Mark Bennett's statistics for Edinburgh against Scarlets
Mark Bennett beat two defenders while contributing a try and two assists against Scarlets

They lost Fraser McKenzie to the sin bin with the clock red at the end of the half, the veteran lock guilty of a dangerous shoulder charge, but it scarcely checked their momentum. Hickey banged over a penalty 13 minutes into the second period.

With an hour gone, Scarlets finally got on the board, Marc Jones burrowing over after a slew of pick-and-drive phases marched slowly towards the whitewash, Dan Jones converting.

Barely five minutes later, Edinburgh went up the other end and Willemse powered, rolled and planted the ball onto the line from another set-piece rumble.

Edinburgh weren't done there. Van der Merwe steamed on to Jaco van der Walt's floater and swaggered in for his treble score, the replacement fly-half knocking through the conversion.

Fijian "Sledgehammer" Sau had showed his explosive brutality in flashes, and with time up, Bennett cleverly gave him space to tear clear and in at the opposite corner.

This was an invigorating night for Edinburgh, resurgent old faces and eye-catching new arrivals combining to deliver a blistering win.

Edinburgh: Kinghorn, Sau, Bennett, Scott, Van der Merwe, Hickey, Pyrgos (capt), Schoeman, Willemse, Ceccarelli, McKenzie, Douglas, Miller, Crosbie, Haining.

Replacements: Fenton, Bhatti, McCallum, Thomson, Bradbury, Shiel, Van der Walt, Taylor.

Scarlets: McNicholl; Conbeer, Hughes (capt), Nicholas, James; D Jones, Hardy; R Evans, T Davies, Lee, Cummins, Kruger, Phillips, Macleod, Cassiem.

Replacements: M Jones, P Price, Kruger, Helps, D Davis, J Evans, O'Brien, Fonotia.

Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)

Assistants: Sam Grove-White (SRU); Eddie Hogan O'Connell (IRFU)

TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)

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