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Scarlets heap more misery on Bulls in 8-try thriller

By PA
Scarlets' head coach Dwayne Peel watches warm up prior to during the EPCR Challenge Cup match at the Parc y Scarlets stadium, Llanelli. Picture date: Friday January 13, 2023. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

Scarlets secured an impressive 37-28 home victory over the third-placed Bulls in a thrilling game of eight tries.

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The hosts led 27-7 at one stage but a superb second-half rally from the South Africans saw them nearly snatch a United Rugby Championship win at Parc-y-Scarlets.

Dan Davis, Kemsley Mathias, Gareth Davies and Johnny McNicholl scored tries for Scarlets, with Sam Costelow kicking three penalties and three conversions while Dan Jones also made his kick count.

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Stravino Jacobs, Zak Burger, Cyle Brink and Simphiwe Matanzima scored Bulls’ tries, with Chris Smith converting all four.

A penalty from Costelow gave Scarlets an early lead but Bulls soon replied with the opening try.

From the restart the hosts lost possession to allow Bulls to exert a period of pressure before Burger darted over from close range.

Scarlets’ response was swift as first Davis evaded a defender to crash over before the flanker created another try by winning a crucial turnover.

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That enabled the home side to secure a five-metre scrum from where Mathias forced his way over, with a second conversion from Costelow giving his side a 17-7 lead at the end of a lively first quarter.

Worse was to follow for the South Africans when they lost possession in the opposition half for Dafydd Hughes to burst away.

When the ball was recycled an alert Costelow booted the ball downfield, with Davies easily winning the race to collect and touch down.

Costelow converted and added a penalty before his side suffered a blow when centre Joe Roberts was sin-binned for a deliberate offside.

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Bulls immediately capitalised when a cross-field kick from Smith was collected by Jacobs to score with Smith’s conversion, leaving his side 27-14 adrift at the interval.

Three minutes after the restart, Roberts returned in time to see Costelow extend the advantage with his third penalty before Bulls remained in contention with a converted try from Brink.

Bulls continued their comeback with a bonus-point try from replacement Matanzima but twice they elected for driving line-outs when a successful kick at goal would have put them in the lead.

The decisions proved costly as Scarlets broke out. Lionel Mapoe was yellow-carded for a late challenge and the hosts clinched victory with a try from McNicholl.

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Flankly 4 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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