Veteran scrum-half Gareth Davies was the Scarlets’ hero as he crossed for two well-taken tries in his team’s 29-23 bonus-point United Rugby Championship win over 14-man Cardiff at the Arms Park.
For the home side, Tomos Williams and Cam Winnett scored five-pointers while Tinus de Beer finished with a 13-point haul courtesy of three penalties and two conversions but they were hampered by the dismissal of Ellis Jenkins.
In addition to Davies’ two tries, Alex Craig, Steff Evans and Johnny McNicholl also dotted down for the visitors, while player of the match Ioan Lloyd succeeded with a couple of conversions.
The home side raced into a 14-0 lead inside the first 10 minutes when scrum-half Tomos Williams and full-back Winnett breached Scarlets’ defence.
Cardiff made 25 metres from a driving maul off the back of a clean lineout win when Alex Mann broke clear off the back but was held up just short of the line before Tomos Williams dummied his way over and De Beer converted.
And it was the lineout again that was the basis for Cardiff’s second score as De Beer’s pass was scooped up by Winnett to go over.
But Scarlets hit back moments later as Johnny Williams broke through the Cardiff defensive line to set up Davies to go in under the posts.
And Scarlets were soon over again as a penalty kicked to the corner bore fruit when second-row Craig squirmed over following relentless forward pressure.
Cardiff were reduced to 14 men when Jenkins was shown a red card following a tip tackle on Dan Davis.
And Scarlets made them pay as McNicholl broke clear before setting up Davies to go in for his second try of the afternoon. Lloyd’s conversion made it 19-14 at the break.
De Beer closed the gap with a penalty early in the second half before another three-pointer put them ahead.
But back came Scarlets and Evans went over in the corner for the bonus-point score before McNicholl went in in the opposite corner to stretch the advantage 10 minutes from time.
De Beer’s late penalty at least ensured Cardiff left with a losing bonus point.
Although the Lions had lost the services of lock Ruben Schoeman to a red card after after 26 minutes, they were full value for their bonus-point victory and handed the Dragons their sixth defeat of the URC campaign.
Centre Henco van Wyk, full-back Quan Horn, wing Edwill van der Merwe (2), scrum-half Morne van den Berg and number eight Francke Horn crossed the whitewash, while fly-half Sanele Nohamba kicked five conversions and three penalties for a 19-point haul.
The Dragons had their moments – notably impressive tries from flanker Harri Keddie, wing Ashton Hewitt and hooker Bradley Roberts – with Will Reed adding a penalty and three conversions, but defensive deficiencies were ruthlessly exposed by a free-flowing Lions outfit.
The Dragons, crushed 69-14 by the Sharks in Durban last weekend, made a superb response after scrum-half Rhodri Williams was yellow-carded inside five minutes for a deliberate knock-on.
Centre Aneurin Owen broke from deep inside his own half, before Wales back-row forward Aaron Wainwright surged clear and quickly-recycled possession resulted in Keddie touching down and Reed converting.
The Dragons showed plenty of adventure, but they were undone by a charged-down kick seven minutes later, which allowed Van Wyk an unopposed 60-metre run to the line.
Nohamba edged the Lions ahead through a 22nd-minute penalty, yet Schoeman was then sent off for a dangerous challenge on Hewitt.
It made no difference to the Lions’ ambition, though, which was magnificently illustrated when they attacked from behind their own line, wing Richard Kriel sprinted to halfway before Quan Horn finished off in style.
Nohamba converted, but Reed kept the Dragons in touch with a 39th-minute penalty that cut their interval deficit to 18-10.
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The Dragons made a miserable start to the second period, seeing Roberts sin-binned for a deliberate trip, before their defence was unlocked when wing Rio Dyer slipped and Van der Merwe touched down, with Nohamba converting.
The Welsh side needed a quick response, and it arrived courtesy of Hewitt, who started and finished a flowing move, with Reed’s conversion bringing them back to striking distance, only for Nohamba to land another penalty.
And missed tackles led to the Lions claiming a bonus-point try when Kriel sent Van den Berg sprinting over and Nohamba again added the extras, before Roberts’ driving maul effort came to little, too late as Francke Horn and Van der Merwe completed the scoring.