Converted tries from Isa Nacewa and replacement James Tracy were not enough for Leinster to reel in the in-form Scarlets as Leo Cullen’s men fell to an 11-point GUINNESS PRO12 defeat in Llanelli tonight…
Canadian Rugby World Cup star DTH van der Merwe scored a try in each half, helping the Scarlets to register a club record eighth successive victory.
The winger's intercept effort, on the back of James Davies' eighth-minute score, had the PRO12 pacesetters leading 15-0 at the break. While Noel Reid was in the sin-bin, Regan King put debutant van der Merwe over in the left corner for a 52nd minute try.
Steve Shingler topped off his 10-point kicking contribution with the conversion and a further penalty, before Leinster went on to dominate the final quarter in their pursuit of a losing bonus point.
The province's bench made a considerable impact, with debutant Tony Ryan's delightful offload setting the wheels in motion for Isa Nacewa's try just past the hour mark.
The visitors remained on the front foot and although young hooker James Tracy struck from a maul for Fergus McFadden to convert, time ran out on their bid to salvage something from the game.
Leinster Academy talent Ross Byrne, who made his first start at number 10, was pinged for not rolling away quickly enough as the Scarlets gained a third minute lead thanks to the boot of Shingler.
Leinster's first attack of note saw Reid spot a mismatch and slice through over halfway, however the Ireland-capped centre lacked support and had to kick through with the hosts able to cover the danger.
Eight minutes in, the Scarlets made headway with a bout of crisp passing and clever angles of running. They pressed out to the right before the Leinster defence was sucked in and numbers on the left saw skipper John Barclay put fellow back rower Davies over in the corner.
Shingler slid the conversion narrowly to the left of the posts and McFadden watched his penalty strike from the 10-metre line fall short on the quarter hour.
There was little between the teams during the second quarter, with Josh van der Flier's excellent rip in the tackle breaking up a Scarlets attack. A good attacking spell from the visitors then ended with Nacewa being bundled into touch by Hadleigh Parkes.
A well-won turnover by Marty Moore was another highlight for Leo Cullen's side. Crucially, just when it looked like Leinster might made a breakthrough, a Reid pass was intercepted by van der Merwe on his 22-metre line and he had the gas to race clear and touch down to the left of the posts.
Shingler converted the sucker-punch score and Leinster lost Reid to the bin barely three minutes after the restart, as the Scarlets began to build some pressure and the centre went off his feet at a ruck.
Dogged defending from the men in blue kept the Scarlets out in both corners, with some important interventions from the likes of Dominic Ryan, Dan Leavy and McFadden.
But the 14 men could not hold out as the Llanelli outfit swept the ball wide to the left where former All Black and man-of-the-match King sent van der Merwe nipping over in the corner past the covering Bryan Byrne.
Shingler punished a Jamie Hagan scrum offence to widen the gap to 25 points with less than 20 minutes to play.
Wexford man Ryan, the fifth Leinster replacement to enter the fray, made an immediate impact just moments later. It was his inviting offload that allowed the returning Reid to raid through the middle and full-back Nacewa ran another well-timed support line to take the scoring pass for his third try in two outings.
The seven-pointer sparked an excellent period of attacking from Leinster, as young half-backs Luke McGrath and Cathal Marsh maintained a high tempo. The latter's dink towards the left corner was almost gathered by work-hungry replacement Mick McGrath.
There was another missed opportunity when Marsh's long looping pass was knocked on by McFadden with the try-line in sight.
Clever distribution from Marsh again put van der Flier galloping through midfield and although Garry Ringrose was held up short, the subsequent lineout via a penalty saw Tracy crash over on the end of a maul for his first PRO12 try. McFadden converted but the Scarlets' efforts over the opening hour were enough for them to take the spoils.
SCARLETS SCORERS: J. Davies (1 try), DTH van der Merwe (2 tries), S. Shingler (2 conversions and 2 penalties)
LEINSTER SCORERS: I. Nacewa (1 try), J. Tracy (1 try), F. McFadden (2 conversions)
SCARLETS: Aled Thomas; Hadleigh Parkes, Regan King, Gareth Owen, DTH van der Merwe; Steven Shingler, Aled Davies; Rob Evans, Kirby Myhill, Peter Edwards, George Earle, Tom Price, Aaron Shingler, James Davies, John Barclay CAPTAIN.
REPLACEMENTS: Ryan Elias, Phil John, Will Taylor, Tom Phillips, Jack Condy, Rhodri Williams, Dan Jones, Tom Williams.
15. Isa Nacewa CAPTAIN
14. Fergus McFadden
13. Colm O'Shea (Mick McGrath, 54)
12. Noel Reid
11. Garry Ringrose
10. Ross Byrne (Cathal Marsh, 63)
9. Isaac Boss (Luke McGrath, 63)
1. Michael Bent (Peter Dooley, 57)
2. Bryan Byrne (James Tracy, 57)
3. Marty Moore (Jamie Hagan, 50)
4. Ross Molony
5. Tom Denton (Tadhg Beirne, 73)
6. Dominic Ryan
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Dan Leavy (Tony Ryan, 61)
REFEREE: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU); ASSISTANT REFEREES: Wayne Davies, Greg Morgan (both WRU); CITING COMMISSIONER: Aurwel Morgan ( WRU); TMO: Tim Hayes (WRU).