REPORT | SCARLETS 22 DRAGONS 13
The visiting Dragons scrapped and grafted throughout the 80 minutes after impressing in defeat to Cardiff Blues and edging out the Ospreys in a thriller last week.
However they were unable to overcome the former PRO14 champions on their own patch with a decimated front row leaving the Men of Gwent short of a platform at the scrum.
Much was made of the Scarlets injury list but after an intense few weeks of back to back derbies and taking on heavyweights Leinster, Clermont and Northampton beforehand the Dragons were also missing many crucial names.
Before the game Ryan Bevington and Jared Rosser were ruled out this week, to add to absentees Ollie Griffiths, Ashton Hewitt, Ross Moriarty, Brok Harris, Leon Brown and Lloyd Fairbrother.
Following a summer stint playing in New Zealand, Dan Suter was given a first start since facing the Scarlets at Judgement Day at the Principality Stadium back in April whilst young Christian Coleman and Gerard Ellis were prop cover amongst the replacements.
The Scarlets got the nudge on in the scrum as early as the third minute giving fly-half Dan Jones the opportunity to open the scoring from in front of the posts and he doubled the lead in similar fashion after 11 minutes.
The Dragons’ scrum worries got worse when Jarvis limped off after 16 minutes clutching his right hamstring to be replaced by Gerard Ellis.
Precious little rugby was being played in a scrappy affair, but Dragons halved the deficit when Josh Lewis kicked a penalty after 31 minutes after a great kick chase by Aaron Wainwright and lock Matthew Screech.
But the Scarlets retaliated and after more pressure referee Craig Evans gave a third penalty to the home team to make it 9-3 after Zane Kirchner managed to hold up a Scarlets attack over the line.
As half time approached there was still time for another Scarlets attack and it was to the Dragons’ cost with a break into the 22 leading to a Scarlets scrum, another penalty, a yellow card for Suter and three more points for Jones to leave the score 12-3 at half time.
The Dragons were down to 14 in the second half but got back within six points when Lewis slotted his second penalty with 48 minutes on the clock.
Their defence, combined with a sluggish home attack, was keeping the game tight and the Scarlets turned to their driving lineout to try and stretch ahead.
Even that spluttered – two penalties were kicked to five metres out only for Elias to overcook his throw with Lions and Wales hooker Ken Owens playing at number eight.
But the hosts had the lead their dominance, at least in terms of territory and possession, deserved when the back three combined to make it 17-6 in the 58th minute.
With Jonathan Davies the decoy and left wing Paul Asquith found full-back Johnny McNicholl, who put right winger Ioan Nicholas over down the right.
The Dragons had to defend tenaciously to keep it at 17-6 as the clock ticked towards 70 minutes but hopes of building any pressure were undermined by the set piece struggles.
Scarlets were over for their second when Sam Hidalgo-Clyne darted over from a quick tap.
As the clock ticked red, Rhodri Williams burst into the Scarlets’ half and centre Jack Dixon and wing Adam Warren combined to put flanker James Benjamin over for a try that Jason Tovey converted to give the visitors a final say.
The Dragons were beaten 13-22, but showed great character and plenty of fight to keep the game tight to the end and narrowly miss out on a losing bonus.
3 Penalty Dan Jones Scarlets 3- Dragons 0
11 Penalty Dan Jones Scarlets 6 Dragons 0
31 Penalty Josh Lewis Scarlets 6 Dragons 3
38 Penalty Dan Jones Scarlets 9 Dragons 3
40 Penalty Dan Jones Scarlets 12 Dragons 3
48 Penalty Josh Lewis Scarlets 12 Dragons 6
58 Try Ioan Nicholas Scarlets 17 Dragons 6
75 Try Sam Hidalgo-Clyne Scarlets 22 Dragons 6
80 Try James Benjamin Scarlets 22 Dragons 11
80 Conversion Jason Tovey Scarlets 22 Dragons 13
Scarlets: Johnny McNicholl, Ioan Nicholas, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Paul Asquith, Dan Jones, Kieran Hardy; Rob Evans, Ryan Elias, Samson Lee, Josh Helps, David Bulbring, Ed Kennedy, Dan Davies, Ken Owens
Replacements: Marc Jones, Wyn Jones, Werner Kruger, Tom Price, Tom Phillips, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Steff Hughes, Tom Prydie
Dragons: Zane Kirchner, Adam Warren, Tyler Morgan, Jack Dixon, Hallam Amos, Josh Lewis, Tavis Knoyle; Aaron Jarvis, Richard Hibbard, Dan Suter, Brandon Nansen, Matthew Screech, Cory Hill, Aaron Wainwright, Harrison Keddie
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Gerard Ellis, Chris Coleman, Joe Davies, James Benjamin, Rhodri Williams, Jason Tovey, Jordan Williams
Referee: Craig Evans (WRU)