Pro14: Scarlets 32-12 Cardiff Blues

By Gareth GriffithsBBC Sport Wales at Parc y Scarlets
Pro14: Scarlets v Cardiff Blues
Scarlets (15) 32
Tries: Kennedy, S Evans 2, Lousi, McNicholl Cons: Halfpenny 2 Pen: Halfpenny
Cardiff Blues (7) 12
Tries: Adams, M Morgan Con: J Evans

Scarlets took the spoils on Welsh regional rugby's return with a convincing bonus-point victory over Cardiff Blues in Llanelli.

Two tries for Wales wing Steff Evans were aided by further scores from flanker Ed Kennedy, second-row Sam Lousi and wing Johnny McNicholl.

Cardiff Blues responded with tries from Josh Adams and Matthew Morgan.

The Blues will be concerned by a second-half shoulder injury to Wales scrum-half Tomos Williams.

Scarlets scrum-half Gareth Davies had limped off just before half-time, with his Welsh rival suffering his issue just after the interval. Blues head coach John Mulvihill said afterwards he hoped it was not too serious.

Ospreys host Dragons on Sunday while Scarlets travel to Rodney Parade next Saturday still with a chance of the Pro14 play-offs.

Scarlets are the only Welsh side to have a chance of semi-final qualification after starting the day eight points adrift of second-placed Munster in Conference B. This victory and Munster's loss against Leinster cuts the deficit to four points.

Prior to the game both teams showed their support for the 'rugby against racism' movement with a moment of unity, with players from both sides taking the knee in a powerful message.

Once play was underway, Scarlets showed the greater urgency on regional rugby's return - behind closed doors in front of no fans - as they chased that semi-final spot.

It had been 169 days since the last Welsh region had played in the Pro14, when Dragons were defeated by Benetton on 6 March.

Six rounds of the Pro14 had been wiped out and the regular 2019-20 league season will be finished with two rounds of derbies, in what must be the longest campaign on record.

The break has seen new faces among the four regions, with Wales forwards Cory Hill and Rhys Carre making their first appearances of their second spells with Cardiff Blues.

Wales-qualified centre Johnny Williams made his Scarlets debut following his move from Newcastle and impressed with some hard running.

Scarlets flanker Josh Macleod and Blues back-row duo Olly Robinson and Will Boyde impressed with breakdown turnovers.

Scarlets win “something for fans to cheer'

Wales quartet Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies, Rhys Patchell and Rob Evans were sidelined through injury, while flanker Aaron Shingler has been ruled out for at least three month with a leg condition.

Scotland back-rower Blade Thomson was supposed to play his first game since December 2019 after suffering concussion, but he was a late withdrawal with flanker Ed Kennedy replacing him.

Kennedy became the opening scorer of the resumption following good work from Steff Evans and Johnny Williams.

Evans was involved again in the Scarlets' second try as he charge down a Harri Millard kick and dribbled over the line to pounce for the score. Leigh Halfpenny converted after two earlier misses.

Cardiff Blues responded out of nowhere with a try from Wales wing Adams after clever work from hooker Kristian Dacey, with Jarrod Evans converting.

A searing Halfpenny break laid the platform for Blues to concede a penalty and the full-back slotted over the kick to give the home side a 15-7 interval lead.

Second-half dominance

Scarlets had lost Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies with a backside injury, before Cardiff Blues number nine Williams picked up a shoulder injury straight after the break following a scything break.

Home wing Evans struck with his second opportunist try after he collected his chip kick ahead of Adams and Will Boyde, with the try confirmed by the television match official.

Blues continued their stuttering second-half start when captain Josh Turnbull was yellow-carded for a professional foul at the ruck, following a storming Kennedy run.

Scarlets made the numerical advantage tell with Lousi flopping over for the bonus-point try and their dominance was evident with internationals Ken Owens, Jake Ball and James Davies coming off the bench.

Cardiff Blues were turned over too easily - Josh Turnbull

It was flanker Davies' first appearance of the season, as he returned for the first time since Wales' World Cup bronze medal match against New Zealand in November 2019.

Scarlets' supremacy was typified by a spectacular length of the field counter-attacking try for McNicholl, after good work from Johnny Williams and Angus O'Brien.

Cardiff Blues made changes and it worked as replacement full-back Morgan glided over before hooker Kirby Myhill was yellow-carded.

Scarlets head coach Glenn Delaney: "It is marvellous to be back on the field again playing the game we love and trying to entertain people. You had two teams going hard to create a spectacle.

"I was proud of the performance. There were errors and things we can improve on but the attitude was excellent."

Cardiff Blues head coach John Mulvihill said: "Three of their tries were very soft and we have some work to do in a number of areas.

"It lacked a bit of intensity, it was not like a derby we have had over the last number of seasons and it had the feel of a pre-season friendly."

Scarlets: L Halfpenny; J McNicholl, S Hughes (capt), J Williams, S Evans; D Jones, G Davies; W Jones, R Elias, S Lee, L Rawlins, S Lousi, E Kennedy, U Cassiem, J Macleod.

Replacements: K Owens, P Price, W Kruger, J Ball, J Davies, K Hardy, A O'Brien, P Asquith.

Cardiff Blues: H Amos; J Adams, H Millard, B Thomas, A Summerhill; J Evans, T Williams; R Carre, K Dacey, D Lewis, C Hill, R Thornton, J Turnbull (capt), W Boyde, O Robinson.

Replacements: K Myhill, R Gill, K Assiratti, S Davies, S Lewis-Hughes, L Williams, G Smith, M Morgan.

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU).

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