New Year defeat for Dragons
Dragons suffered derby heartache as they lost out to 14-man Scarlets in a hugely disappointing New Year’s Day clash in the BKT United Rugby Championship at Parc y Scarlets.
Full back Angus O’Brien - against his former side – and scrum half Lewis Jones grabbed first half tries while Sione Kalamafoni was red carded for the hosts.
But a scrappy and disjointed second period saw Dragons fall behind and never recover as Scarlets inflicted a painful away day loss to open the year.
The Men of Gwent now have a short five-day turnaround until South African giants the Vodacom Bulls arrive at Rodney Parade.
And Head Coach Dai Flanagan will have much to consider after the Llanelli second half showing as he looks to revitalise the team for yet more league action.
Dragons made three changes as Jones, Taine Basham and Aki Seiuli were selected while Sio Tomkinson was a late call-up for Jack Dixon. Steff Hughes was named captain on his return to Scarlets.
The hosts made a quick start as Johnny McNicholl soared high to win a contested high ball and the attack rumbled on for Sione Kalamafoni to blast over only for the score to be chalked off for a knock on.
Back came play for a penalty for not rolling away and Leigh Halfpenny slotted the resulting kick.
A charge down by George Nott sparked home alarm bells before a cross field kick from Hanrahan saw Tomkinson and Rio Dyer both dragged down just short.
A counterattack down the left wing gave Steff Evans space to kick in behind, but he failed to gather under pressure from the retreating Bradley Roberts.
A scrum penalty saw Halfpenny kick the home side further ahead. Hanrahan responded with three points of his own on 15 minutes.
A superb break from Dyer, as he blasted through tackles in a congested midfield, suddenly blew the home defence apart and the young wing drew the final man to send O’Brien over.
The home side responded with a try of their own as slick handling down then left freed up space for Steff Evans to race over. O’Brien was forced off with Davies replacing him.
Tempers flared after Hewitt was shunted into touch and after TMO intervention both teams were reduced to 14, Sione Kalamafoni red carded for a punch and Moriarty yellow carded.
The resulting penalty was kicked to the corner and after the rolling maul was stopped just short it was scrum half Jones who spotted a gap and darted over.
Halfpenny cut the lead to a point with a penalty a minute before the break.
Moriarty returned to the fray two minutes into the second half as Dragons took a man advantage while Scarlets missed a chance for the lead when Patchell pulled a penalty from out wide.
Aaron Wainwright attacked the line at pace to try and splinter the home defence while Screech was an early replacement for Nott. Halfpenny nudged Scarlets ahead with half an hour to play of a tight derby.
A scrum penalty allowed Davies to kick to the corner, but the resulting lineout was not straight and a chance went begging.
The home crowd came alive as Scarlets tore down the left and forced a knock on to a huge ovation.
From the resulting scrum the hosts showed great patience to battle up close before Dane Blacker stretched over the line. Halfpenny added the extras for a 26-17 lead with 20 minutes left.
A high tackle on Hewitt gave Dragons the chance to strike back, but Hanrahan’s penalty from distance drifted wide left. Moriarty and Fry combined from deep to try and spark and attack from deep.
Davies then kicked deep into the home 22 after an offside penalty, but twice the home side repelled any drive and forced a turnover.
Time was slipping away as replacement Hope looked to go quick and salvage at least a point.
But there was to be no late fightback and one final body blow came in added time as ball was spilled and Johnny McNicholl dotted down in the corner.
05m Halfpenny p 3-0
12m Halfpenny p 6-0
15m Hanrahan p 6-3
19m O’Brien t Hanrahan c 6-10
23m Evans t Halfpenny c 13-10
34m Jones t Hanrahan c 13-17
39m Halfpenny p 16-17
48m Halfpenny p 19-17
59m Blacker t Halfpenny c 26-17
80m McNicholl t Halfpenny c 33-17
Scarlets: Leigh Halfpenny; Johnny McNicholl, Joe Roberts, Scott Williams, Steff Evans, Rhys Patchell, Dane Blacker; Kemsley Mathias, Ken Owens, WillGriff John, Vaea Fifita, Sam Lousi, Aaron Shingler, Dan Davis, Sione Kalamafoni
Replacements: Shaun Evans, Steff Thomas, Sam Wainwright, Morgan Jones, Carwyn Tuipulotu, Kieran Hardy, Dan Jones, Jonathan Davies
Dragons RFC: Angus O’Brien (Davies 24), Rio Dyer, Steff Hughes, Sio Tomkinson (Clark 75), Ashton Hewitt, JJ Hanrahan, Lewis Jones (Hope 75), Aki Seiuli (Evans 71), Bradley Roberts (Coghlan 75), Chris Coleman (Yendle 75), Joe Davies, George Nott (Screech 47), Aaron Wainwright (Fry 60), Taine Basham, Ross Moriarty
Replacements: Brodie Coghlan, Rob Evans, Luke Yendle, Matthew Screech, Ben Fry, Che Hope, Sam Davies, Max Clark
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU, 86th league game)