02182018

Four-try Scarlets beat Bath to go top of European Champions Cup pool

Tadhg Beirne

Lock Tadhg Beirne scored the Scarlets opener at the Recreation Ground

Scarlets took a step towards the European Champions Cup quarter-finals and dented Bath’s hopes with a bonus-point victory at the Recreation Ground.

It was a scintillating display of attacking rugby by the visitors, who scored four tries before Matt Banahan and Zach Mercer replied for Bath.

The Welsh side replace Bath at the top of Pool Five and lead on 17 points with one round of games remaining.

Bath are second on 13 points, alongside Toulon, who play Benetton on Sunday.

Scarlets now have their destiny in their own hands and host three-time winners Toulon in their final game on 20 January at Parc y Scarlets.

Bath blown away

With Leigh Halfpenny and Johnny McNicholl failing fitness tests, Scarlets had to reshuffle their backline.

Rhys Patchell replaced full-back Halfpenny, Paul Asquith moved from centre to wing with Hadleigh Parkes lining up alongside Scott Williams in midfield, and Dan Jones started at fly-half.

But the changes did not blunt their attacking instincts and they blew Bath away in the first half with clinical running rugby and outstanding offloads.

Their opening try on 10 minutes came from a counter-attack launched in his own half by Patchell which was finished superbly by lock Tadhg Beirne, who sidestepped Anthony Watson to touch down.

The visitors were down a man when number eight John Barclay was sin-binned on 21 minutes – shown a yellow card for going into the side of a ruck after Matt Banahan had been held up on the try-line.

The numerical advantage did not help Bath as Scarlets scored their second try moments later, Paul Asquith crossing in the corner.

Gareth Davies shrugged off a tackle from Chris Cook and passed to Parkes to score their third under the posts on the half hour mark, their second during Barclay’s sin-bin.

A fourth first-half try looked inevitable for the Welsh side but Banahan’s intervention prevented Williams from playing in Asquith, while Jones extended their lead to 22-0 at the break with a penalty.

The bonus-point try came sooner after the break.

After patient build-up from the forwards on the Bath try-line, Patchell sent a beautifully weighted grubber kick through to Williams to score in the corner.

Pool Five table - 1 Scarlet, 2 Bath, 3 Toulon, 4 Benetton<!–

Too little too late

England head coach Eddie Jones, who names his Six Nations squad this weekend, was in attendance but he witnessed one-way traffic from the visitors.

Bath lost Rhys Priestland after five minutes, with the fly-half limping off clutching his hamstring and being replaced by Freddie Burns.

Watson showed some early promise but Banahan’s break was the closest Bath got to the Scarlet’s try-line.

They showed more promise after Scarlets had secured the bonus point.

Banahan, who is moving to Gloucester in the summer, finally got his side on the scoreboard on 58 minutes.

The 6ft 7in winger acrobatically caught Burns’ kick and managed to hold off Gareth Davies’ challenge to touch down in the corner – and Zach Mercer added a second, diving over from close range with seven minutes remaining.

Any hopes Bath had of securing a losing bonus point were dashed when Jones landed a huge penalty late on to kill off the game.

They now face the prospect of missing out on the quarter-finals and travel to Italy to face Benetton next week in their final game.

Bath: Watson; Banahan, Joseph, Tapuai, A Brew; Priestland, Cook; Obano, Dunn, Thomas; Stooke, Charteris, Garvey (capt), Underhill, Mercer.

Replacements: Van Vuuren, Noguera, Lahiff, Phillips, Grant, Fotuali’i, Burns, Wilson.

Scarlets: Patchell; Asquith, Parkes, Williams, Prydie; D Jones, G Davies; Evans, Owens (capt), Lee, Beirne, Bulbring, Shingler, J Davies, Barclay

Replacements: Elias, W Jones, Kruger, Rawlins, Macleod, ADavies, Hughes, Boyde

Referee: Jerome Garces

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