Scarlets sign off in Stradey Park at Connacht’s expense

Scarlets 45

Connacht 3

The final Magners League match to be played at the iconic Stradey Park grounds in Llanelli empowered the rebranded Scarlets (formerly Llanelli Scarlets ) to mark the occasion in front of 6,000 fans with an incredible seven tries.

A win for the home side was never in doubt, but a defeat of such magnitude is a concern for Connacht whose only points came in the second minute when outhalf Ian Keatley posted a penalty.

Connacht coach Michael Bradley admits his side was “well beaten”. However the weekend’s results that saw Munster post a 50- 6 win over the Dragons, and Leinster’s 52-6 victory over Edinburgh do provide some measure of solace in a league that is distinctly becoming divided in two. Thus the two Welsh opponents who Connacht have played sit first and second in the league, followed by Ireland’s big two, Munster and Leinster.

"You cannot take anything away from the Scarlets,” says Bradley. “ I thought they were excellent. They had speed at the rucks, speed in the offload, and if they play like that, going back to their roots, they have a great chance to progress further like they were two years ago when no one could touch them."

In attack Connacht’s new expansive approach carved out a couple of chances, but most were snuffed out by an aggressive Scarlets’ defence - an area on which new coach Nigel Davies says his side has concentrated this season, along with physicality. This was epitomised by the likes of prop Deacon Manu who had the force to barge over for two tries that set the Scarlets on their way. Add in Australia’s No 8 David Lyons, Ireland's Simon Easterby, and replacement prop, the former All Black Kees Meeuws, and the Scarlets won the battle at the breakdown. Out wide they boast pace and power aplenty, and on this occasion Dafydd James, Morgan Stoddart, and replacement Jon Davies were able to carve open the Connacht defence on too many occasions.

"If you don't make your tackles, you do not win the game,” says Bradley, “particularly against a quality side like Llanelli. We fell off a lot of tackles, and we have to improve our kicking game.

"We have a good group of young players, and some of their attacking play was very good, but critically we were in the Llanelli half three times in the first half and did not score.

"We were well beaten. We will have days like that. All we can do is learn and move on."

Connacht enjoyed a bright opening when outhalf Ian Keatley struck a second minute penalty immediately after the kick-off, and three successive turnovers provided Connacht with a platform to attack. However they once again struggled to make an impact, and it was the Scarlets' Dafydd James who made the most impression, setting up several Scarlets attacks. Only for a series of unforced errors, they would have added another three first-half tries to their tally, but instead had to wait till the 18th minute when James broke through Duffy's tackle before offloading, and it was Manu who barged over for the opening try. The New Zealander claimed the second three minutes later when the Scarlets capitalised on a penalty to touch to give them a 12 - 3 lead, and although Connacht did have their opportunities they could not add to their tally.

Troy Nathan, who moved into the outhalf position after Ian Keatley was forced off, had the accuracy, but not the distance with a penalty chance before the break, and when a missed tackle let replacement centre Jon Davies through for a third try just after the restart, there was no way back for the visitors.

Thereafter it was a saunter for the home side. Nathan Brew, Stoddart, with two, and Mark Jones, finished the scoring spree ensuring the Scarlets farewelled 130 years of rugby history at the world-famous ground.

league history in style.

Yellow cards: Connacht, K Matthews 32m

Scarlets: M Stoddart; M Jones, R Higgitt, N Brew, D James; S Jones, M Roberts; P John, M Rees, D Manu; L Reed, V Cooper; S Easterby, G Thomas, D Lyons. Replacements: J Davies for James (ht ); K Meeuws for John (53 ) K Owens for Rees (53 ), D Jones for Easterby (56 ),D Day for Reed (65 ),C Thomas for S Jones (65 ), S Martens for Roberts (67 ), John for Manu (70 ).

Connacht: T Nathan; F Carr, G Duffy, K Matthews, A Wynne; I Keatley, K Campbell; B Wilkinson, A Flavin, R Loughney; M Swift, A Farley; M McCarthy, R Ofisa, J Muldoon. Replacements: A Browne for Swift (17 ), L Bibo for Keatley (39 ),C Rigney for Farley (51 ), F Murphy for Campbell (51 ), M Deane forDuffy (56 ), S Cronin for Flavin, (73m ), B McGovern for Loughney (80 ).

Referee: S McDowell (IRFU ).

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