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Scarlets do just enough to see off Zebre

By PA
Johnny McNicholl /Getty

The Scarlets edged out Zebre 18-17 in a tense Guinness PRO14 clash in Llanelli. First-half tries from right-wing Ryan Conbeer and scrum-half Dane Blacker and eight points from the boot of Angus O’Brien saw the Scarlets record only their second win of the season.

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Pierre Bruno crossed for a second-half try, with Antonio Rizzi kicking 12 points for the visitors.

The Scarlets started positively as they put width on the ball, forcing Zebre to concede two early penalties. After a powerful driving line-out deep in Zebre’s 22 the ball was spread wide and Johnny McNicholl put Conbeer over in the far right-hand corner in the sixth minute.

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Zebre hit back immediately as a searing break from Bruno up the touchline put the Italian outfit in a strong position.

After a series of phases the hosts infringed at the breakdown, allowing Rizzi to open the visitors’ account with three points from the kicking tee.

Some ambitious play by the hosts allowed O’Brien to extend their lead with a successful penalty, while Jac Morgan had a try disallowed after a forward pass from Javan Sebastian.

But they did not have to wait long for their second try as inside centre Paul Asquith made a break down the left-hand touchline before putting a neat kick through for Blacker to gather and score. O’Brien improved their lead with the conversion.

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Zebre enjoyed a period of sustained pressure just before the interval, forcing the hosts to concede a number of penalties in quick succession.

After trying hard to force their way over the whitewash, the visitors settled for three points, with a second penalty from Rizzi seeing the Italians turning around 15-6 behind at the interval.

The Scarlets suffered a setback at the start of the second half as second-row Jac Price had to be helped off the field with suspected concussion.

And to make matters worse the Wales Under-20 star was penalised for a no-arms tackle, allowing Rizzi to bring Zebre to within a converted try with another three points.

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The Scarlets tried desperately to get a foothold in the game but were left frustrated by a resolute Zebre defence.

And the visitors narrowed the game to a mere point after a loose pass from McNicholl was intercepted by Bruno, who crossed the whitewash only for Rizzi to miss the conversion.

Zebre’s pack began to grind the Scarlets down and Rizzi kicked the Italians into the lead with six minutes to go after the hosts illegally sacked a driving line-out.

But the Scarlets immediately regained the lead courtesy of O’Brien’s boot after Zebre were penalised for being off their feet at the ruck and the home side held on for the narrowest of victories.

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finn 10 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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