Planet Rugby

Scarlets leave Exiles hanging

17th January 2010 12:09

Share:

Tom Homer try v Scarlets

Not enough: Tom Homer's early try proved a false omen for the Irish

London Irish's hopes of making the Heineken Cup quarter-finals were dealt a mortal blow on Sunday as they fell 31-22 to the Scarlets in Llanelli.

Trailing 22-10 with 20 to go and with fly-half Rhys Priestland misfiring off the tee, blindside Rob McCusker capitalised with two tries on a performance of huge spirit, spearheaded by the effervescent David Lyons, with Priestland finding his radar once again in the nick of time to convert both and give the Scarlets the lead.

Then Jonathan Davies stormed home for his second try in the final minute to deny the Exiles even a bonus point. Irish now head into next week's clash against Leinster at home, needing a bonus point win and denying Leinster anything to even stand a mathematical chance of qualification, but the body language at the final whistle suggested they will spend much of the week simply recovering from this defeat.

Moreover, the bonus point win for the Scarlets means they also now stand a mathematical chance of qualification, something not lost on the crowd who raised the roof at the end.

Focus will shift to the Eiles though, whose season is beginning to run out of steam. There were mutterings between the coaches at some of the penalties awarded to the Scarlets by the referee, but the Exiles set their stall out to compete at every breakdown. If you live on the edge of the law, occasionally you will totter over. Monsieur Garces' officiating was some of the best seen at this level this season.

As was the rugby. Both sides ran the ball with aplomb, the Irish because they needed four tries, the Scarlets because they had nothing to lose and because it is still evidently an integral part of their culture.

The game began at a rapid rate of knots, with three tries in the first 15 minutes - two for Irish.

Homer collected the first, rounding off impressive work by centre Seilala Mapusua and England full-back Delon Armitage, but the Scarlets staged an immediate response.

Like Irish, they looked to spin possession wide, and their adventure was rewarded when wing Andrew Fenby sprinted outside his opposite number before sending the supporting Davies sprinting over.

Priestland added the conversion for a 7-5 advantage, yet Irish quickly regrouped to carve out an opening for Paice.

Lamb's conversion opened up a threatening lead, and it looked as though Irish would take charge when Scarlets lock Lou Reed was sin-binned for deliberate obstruction on Irish scrum-half Paul Hodgson.

Lamb slotted the resulting penalty, but Irish were unable to capitalise on their temporary one-man advantage and Priestland ended the half by kicking a long-range penalty following his earlier misses.

Priestland, though, turned villain 12 minutes into the second period, failing to gather Irish wing Peter Hewat's steepling kick, and with the Scarlets defence ball-watching, Hala'ufia collected a kind bounce and cruised clear.

It was a soft score for the Scarlets to concede, although they kept plugging away despite facing a 12-point deficit entering the final quarter.

And their resilience was rewarded 15 minutes from time when McCusker showed a considerable turn of speed for the Llanelli side's second try, converted by Priestland.

Irish, who had been chasing a bonus point, suddenly found themselves scrapping just to stay in front, with Booth looking for stronger half-back control by sending on Peter Richards and Chris Malone as the clock ticked down.

North Walian McCusker though, had other ideas, claiming his second try - it required confirmation from television match official Daniel Gillet - and Irish could only stare in disbelief as Priestland rifled over the touchline conversion.

The visitors mounted an inevitable onslaught during a frenzied finale, yet the Scarlets were not to be denied after putting themselves in pole position.

Irish repeatedly ran possession at them, but a defensive structure moulded by former Australia international defence coach John Muggleton held its shape amid intense pressure.

Garces' final whistle - immediately after Davies finished Irish off - sparked scenes of wild celebration, with the Scarlets travelling to Brive next weekend knowing that another victory could see them finish second in the group.

The scorers:

For the Scarlets:
Tries: Davies 2, McCusker 2
Cons: Priestland 4
Pen: Priestland

For London Irish:
Tries: Homer, Paice, Hala'Ufia
Cons: Lamb 2
Pen: Lamb

Scarlets15 Daniel Evans, 14 Morgan Stoddart, 13 Sean Lamont, 12 Jon Davies, 11 Andrew Fenby, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Martin Roberts, 8 David Lyons, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Rob McCusker, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Lou Reed, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Iestyn Thomas.
Replacements:16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Phil John, 18 Jamie Corsi, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Jon Edwards, 21 Lee Williams, 22 Daniel Newton, 23 Gareth Maule.

London Irish:15 Delon Armitage, 14 Peter Hewat, 13 Elvis Seveali'i, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Tom Homer, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Paul Hodgson, 8 Chris Hala'Ufia, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Richard Thorpe, 5 Bob Casey, 4 Nick Kennedy, 3 Faan Rautenbach, 2 David Paice, 1 Clarke Dermody.
Replacements: 16 Danie Coetzee, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Paulica Ion, 19 Kieran Roche, 20 Gary Johnson, 21 John Rudd, 22 Peter Richards, 23 Chris Malone.

Referee: Jerome Garces

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs Exeter19:45
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs Zebre19:30
Cardiff Blues vs Ulster19:35
Connacht vs Leinster19:35
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs Edinburgh16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs Toulon18:00
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse18:00
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:00
Castres vs Oyonnax18:00
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:00
Montpellier vs Stade Francais18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs Pumas19:10
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Thursday , September 18
Northland vs TaranakiNorthland vs Taranaki Preview
Friday , September 19
Counties Manukau vs CanterburyCounties Manukau vs Canterbury Preview
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Wednesday, September 17
Southland 14 - 38 TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
ITM Cup
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 MunsterBenetton Treviso vs Munster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens29
2Bath29
3Leicester Tigers29
4Exeter26
5Northampton26