Neath RFC 10, Scarlets 16
Friendly, Aug 12, The Gnoll
THE Scarlets saw off Neath during a competitive pre-season friendly with tries from Johnathan Edwards and Lee Williams.
The visitors fielded a mix of experienced, fresh-faced and new players and got what they were seeking - a good workout against committed opponents.
The Scarlets, who were appearing at The Gnoll for the first time since Boxing Day 2004, fielded four of their summer arrivals.
In the pack, prop Jamie Corsi, flanker Damien Welch and No 8 Ben Morgan were the newcomers, with Gareth Maule behind the scrum.
The Blacks paraded five summer signings - player/coach Kevin Morgan, centre Nathan Brew, wing Alec Jenkins, fly-half Gareth McCarthy and flanker Michael Collins.
It was the first opportunity for the new Neath coaching team of Steve Williams, Leigh Davies and Kevin Morgan to see the squad in a match environment. They announced that Kiwi scrum-half Kevin Farrell will captain the club this season, with prop Martin Jones his deputy.
The Scarlets were on the scoreboard first with a second-minute Dan Newton penalty. However, as the half unfolded, Neath began to pose a threat.
Indeed, from a quickly taken 32nd-minute penalty, Farrell broke and full-back Morgan jinked through for Farrell to touchdown.
Fly-half McCarthy converted but soon after Neath had full-back Morgan sin-binned, allowing the Scarlets to apply pressure.
Eventually, space was created for flanker Johnathan Edwards to claim an unconverted try, giving the Scarlets an 8-7 interval lead.
The Scarlets made a fast start to the second half, and fly-half Newton slotted over a 45th-minute drop-goal.
They had much the better of the third quarter, but on the hour Neath flanker Michael Collins intercepted only to get snared by the cover.
The game was gradually getting bogged down in penalties and in the 63rd minute, Neath replacement hooker Ashleigh James and Scarlets flanker Edwards received yellow cards.
Neath reduced arrears to a point in the 67th minute via a penalty from replacement fly-half Arwel Thomas, and mass changes in personnel became the order of the day.
But a defensive blunder three minutes later cleared the way for Scarlets scrum-half Lee Williams to get to a loose ball first and secure an unconverted try.
Though Neath rallied during the closing minutes, they were unable to record a winning try.
Neath K. Morgan; K. James, N. Brew, L. Ford, A. Jenkins; G. McCarthy, K. Farrell (capt); N. Downs, A. Littlehales, M. Jones, E. Evans, N. Edwards, M. Collins, G. Gravell, C. Price. Replacements: G. King, R. Smith, W. Mitchell, T. James, T. Mabbutt, H. Pugh, A. Lott, A. James, E. Lewis.
Tries: K. Farrell; Con: G. McCarthy; Pen: A. Thomas
Scarlets D. Ford; D. Daniel, R. Higgitt (capt), G. Maule, I. Evans; D. Newton, L. Williams; P. John, E. Phillips, J. Corsi, D. Welch, A. Shingler, R. McCusker, B. Morgan, J. Edwards. Replacements: D. Manu, K. Owens, V. Cooper, J. Turnbull, A. Brake, G. Davies, D. Evans, S. Williams, D. Day, L. Reed, M. Roberts, R. Priestland, J. Davies.
Tries: J. Edwards, L. Williams; Pen: D. Newton Drp-gl: D. Newton
Yellow cards: K. Morgan 33, A. James 63 (both Neath), J. Edwards (Scarlets) 63
Referee: Gwyn Morris (Cardiff)
Photo: Scarlets opening try scorer Johnathan Edwards