Dazzling Scarlets crush Bath
CHAMPIONS CUP REPORT: Scarlets gave a scintillating attacking display to win 35-17 at Bath on Friday and vault to the top of Pool Five in the European Champions Cup.
Bath had won by five points in rainy, windy Llanelli back in October and began the night top of the Pool, level with Toulon on 13 points and one ahead of Scarlets.
But on a dry night in Bath, the home team had no answer to the dazzling running and passing rugby of the visiting Welsh team who secured a bonus point for four tries before the hour mark.
Scarlets took the lead after 12 minutes, sweeping the length of the field in a move that giant lock Tadhg Beirne finished by side-stepping to the line.
"I don't know where that came from," Beirne said after the match. "I went for it and it worked out.
The match pivoted on an incident 10 minutes later. Bath wing Matt Banahan stormed through but, with the ball just short of the Scarlets' line, John Barclay broke up the play, preventing a try but earning a yellow card.
Yet the punishment benefited Scarlets. In the 10 minutes they were a man short the Welsh team kept the ball in hand, ran Bath ragged and scored two tries, the first by Paul Asquith and the second by Hadleigh Parkes.
Scarlets continued to dominate at the start of the second half and spent nearly 13 minutes close to the Bath line before Scott Williams collected a low kick from Rhys Patchell to score the bonus-point try.
Bath salvaged a little pride with tries by Banahan and Zach Mercer, but the defeat takes qualification for the quarterfinals out of their hands.
Toulon host Treviso on Sunday in the other match in the Pool, but even if the French team win and take first place, they must visit Llanelli in the final round.
A home victory would secure first place for Scarlets and make them first Welsh team to reach the last eight since Cardiff five years ago.
"It's knockout rugby now," said Beirne.
Tries: Banahan, Mercer
Cons: Burns 2
Tries: Beirne, Asquith, Parkes, Williams
Cons: Jones 3
Pens: Jones 3
Yellow card: John Barclay (Scarlets, 21 - cynical play, killing the ball)
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Matt Banahan, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Matt Garvey (captain), 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 James Phillips, 20 Paul Grant, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 James Wilson.
Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Paul Asquith, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Tom Prydie, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay, 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens (captain), 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 Josh Macleod, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Hadleigh Parkes.
Referee: Jerome Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Maxime Chalon (France), Jean-Luc Rebollal (France)
TMO: Phillippe Bonhoure (France)