The Scarlets recorded an impressive but hard-fought 17-9 victory over Pro12 rivals Ulster at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday.
A try from George Earle, combined with a fine kicking display from Aled Thomas, saw the Scarlets secure a hard earned victory against a ragged Ulster.
The visitors responded through South African international Ruan Pienaar, but were never able to threaten the home team's ascendancy. The conditions affected the contest as a spectacle, but the Llanelli based team deserved their win.
The game started in a busy fashion, with the kickers of both teams looking to utilise the windy conditions to unsettle the opposition. Ulster had taken a huge gamble prior to the game by electing to start without a recognised openside flanker; Roger Wilson, normally a number-eight, being a complete novice in the position.
But it was the visitors who took the lead on eight minutes when Pienaar slotted a relatively simple penalty after Sione Timani was caught in an offside position. The Scarlets replied in a ferocious manner, with powerful runners like Timani and Josh Turnbull testing the defence of the Irish club.
But despite battering the Ulster rearguard, and camping in the visitors' 22, the Welshmen were unable to capitalise on their ascendancy, and translate their territorial advantage into points. The Scarlets were utterly dominant in this section of the game; with scrum half Gareth Davies particularly prominent.
By the end of the first quarter, the home side were thoroughly outplaying their opponents, and were exhibiting a very effective power game based on continuity. It was no surprise, therefore, when Aaron Shingler levelled proceedings on 21 minutes with a well-taken kick.
But three points seemed scant reward for such tangible superiority. The Irish side were certainly rattled, but their defence was nothing short of outstanding at times it has to be said.
But the dam was inevitably breached on 31 minutes when Scarlets' second-row Earle found himself at the bottom of a well-executed maul. The wind ensured that there was no conversion to leave the score 8-3 to the Welsh franchise.
The ever-dependable Wilson battled away courageously, but the lack of an openside seemed to be hurting Ulster at the breakdown. Replacement Thomas extended his side's lead on 39 minutes to make it 11-3. Unsurprisingly given the conditions, the game had become rather fractured and scrappy, but by the end of the half the Scarlets were well worth their lead.
The second half started with Ulster determined to claw their way back into the game. Pienaar had a chance to reduce the deficit on 42 minutes, but was off-target with his attempt.
The South African talisman made amends two minutes later, however, to make it 11-6 to the hosts.
The Irishmen now had the advantage of the elements, but were unable to enjoy the level of territorial gain they would have been expecting. Thomas increased the Scarlets' lead to 8 points on 63 minutes to make it 14-6 to the Welsh club.
It was the least they deserved for the manner in which they succeeded in playing the game in the Ulster half. The visitors tried time and again to inject momentum into their performance, but were unable to achieve any real fluidity in their game.
Pienaar brought his side back within losing bonus point range on 68 minutes, thereby reducing the Scarlets' lead to a mere 5 points.
Despite suffering their worst performance of the season, Ulster were now within touching distance of an unlikely win. Indeed Pienaar had a gilt-edged chance to narrow the gap to 2 points on 72 minutes, but incredibly sliced his kick right in front of the posts.
And the night got even grimmer for the Irishmen on 76 minutes when Thomas sealed the win by nailing a fantastic penalty following superb work by his forwards. It was a fine kick, and it capped a decent, hard fought victory for the Welsh club that keeps their play-off ambitions on track.
Pens:Shingler, Thomas 3
Yellow Cards:McIlwaine, Wilson
Scarlets:15 Gareth Owen, 14 Nick Reynolds, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Jordan Williams, 10 Steve Shingler, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sione Timani, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 George Earle, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Phil John (c)
Replacements: 16 Darran Harris, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Johan Synman, 20 John Barclay, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Chris Knight.
Ulster:15 Jared Payne (c), 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Chris Farrell, 11 Michael Allen, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Roger Wilson, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Neil McComb, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Mike McComish, 20 Sean Doyle, 21 James McKinney, 22 Ricky Andrew, 23 David McIlwaine
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Gwyn Morris, Andrew Davies (both Wales)
Citing commissioner: Aurwel Morgan (Wales)
Television match official: Tim Hayes (Wales)
By Rory McGimpsey