The Southern Kings shipped a big scoreline in their debut Pro14 match against competition Champions Scarlets.
After a promising start – the Kings held a 7-5 lead at the end of the first quarter and trailed just 10-15 at the half-time break – the Scarlets took control in the second half and scored 42 unanswered points to take the match away from the visitors.
The eight tries to one victory was a fine indicator of how tough it will be to dethrone the Scarlets will be to
Leigh Halfpenny marked his return to Wales with a try.
It took eight minutes for Scarlets to carve open their Southern Hemisphere opponents, when the fiery Johnny McNicholl exquisitely dived over in the corner following a blistering break from scrumhalf Gareth Davies.
Halfpenny, who drew the last tackler before offloading to McNicholl, could not add the extras.
But the Kings came roaring back through Yaw Penxe after the wing – who had earlier been denied after a try-saving tackle from Steff Evans – latched onto a beautifully weighted kick from flyhalf Kurt Coleman to touch down.
The Scarlets responded through a prolonged period of possession in the Kings’ 22, before Rhys Patchell floated the ball to Halfpenny, who bundled over in the corner.
In a pulsating first-half, the Kings would not let up and reduced the deficit to just two points through a Coleman penalty after an infringement on Rossouw de Klerk.
While Scarlets showcased more threatening attacking prowess, it was flyhalf Coleman who dictated large periods of the game, exploiting an occasionally flat Scarlets defence.
But the flyhalf’s kick was cancelled out by Halfpenny moments later to maintain the home side’s slim advantage.
It was end-to-end action as the Kings nearly responded through Sibusiso Sithole, who would have crossed the whitewash had it not been for the try-saving heroics of Hadleigh Parkes, who pushed the South African into touch to end an entertaining first-half.
But after the break, the Welsh outfit showcased more expansive rugby as their Southern Hemisphere counterparts found themselves on the receiving end for much of the second period.
Scarlets began to look the fitter side when, from a penalty line-out, Scott Williams perfectly decoyed his opposite man to allow Patchell to charge over the whitewash.
With daylight now between the two sides, the former Cardiff Blues flyhalf converted his own try to lead 22-10.
And it was only a matter of time before Scarlets grabbed the bonus-point when James Davies broke wide and efficiently recycled to Jake Ball, who charged over.
And substitute Emyr Phillips added a fifth after a catch-and-drive saw the Scarlets power over again, with the boot of Halfpenny converting as the Kings struggled to gain any possession.
Parkes, playing against his former side, added to the rout after 70 minutes, with Patchell easily converting in front of the posts.
And McNicholl grabbed his second and his side’s seventh try minutes later as McNicholl – who carried tremendously all game – stormed over in a move which the wing implemented from his own half.
The last few moments saw Steff Evans, who had been industrious all game, join in on the fun to cap off Scarlet’s perfect start to retaining their title.
Man of the match: Yaw Penxe excited with his pace, Kurt Coleman showed some early promise and Andisa Ntsila worked really hard. Rhys Patchell was great in patches, Leigh Halfpenny showed his class and Johnny McNicholl showed what a valuable signing he is for the Scarlets. However, it is a former Kings player, Scarlets centre Hadleigh Parkes, that wins our award for his great creative skills.
Tries: McNicholl 2, Halfpenny, Patchell, Ball, Phillips, Parks, Evans
Cons: Halfpenny 3, Patchell 4
For the Southern Kings:
Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay (captain), 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Dylan Evans, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 David Bulbring, 20 Will Boyde, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Rhys Jones, 23 Paul Asquith.
Southern Kings: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Sibusiso Sithole, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Rudi van Rooyen, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Victor Sekekete, 6 Khaya Majola, 5 Dries van Schalkwyk, 4 Jurie van Vuuren, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Michael Willemse (captain), 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Luvuyo Pupuma, 18 Etienne Swanepoel, 19 Bobby de Wee, 20 Siyabulela Mdaka, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Ntabeni Dukisa, 23 Jacques Nel.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Source – Rugby365
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