Sione Kalamafoni of the Scarlets. Pic: Getty Images.

Sione Is The Sinner . . . But The Scarlets Are Winners To Ease Pressure On Dwayne Peel

By Paul Jones

The Scarlets survived a red card to No8 Sione Kalamafoni to secure a much-needed second URC victory over of the season in a 33-17 win over the Dragons.

The Tongan international was dismissed by referee Ben Whitehouse for running into a free-for-all and throwing two punches at Welsh international backrower Ross Moriarty towards the end of the first half.

It was the second time in two games that the Scarlets found themselves down to 14-men in the first half of an all-important regional derby, but they produced a superb rearguard action to pick up the points.

The Dragons will be scratching their heads at how they did not make their extra-man count against their fellow URC strugglers, but the home side were well worth the win with wings Steff Hughes and Johnny McNicholl, as well as scrum-half Dane Blacker, crossing for tries.

Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel said: “It’s very pleasing. We started brightly and when we had the ball I felt we were causing problems, but second half I was really pleased with our defensive effort because we were really physical and turned some good ball over.

“It was nice for us to score a try from our defence, that last one – a turnover and a good finish.

“Obviously we were disappointed [at half-time] to be down to 14 again, but it wasn’t a case of feeling sorry for ourselves. We had a job to do and we did it.”

Wales wing Rio Dyer split the home side’s defence with an arcing run to put full-back Angus O’Brien in at the corner for the Dragons first try against the run of play. JJ Hanrahan added the conversion to make it 10-6 before the Scarlets replied almost straight away when a slick backline move saw wing Steff Evans run in unopposed.

Leigh Halfpenny added the extras to give the Scarlets a three-point lead. The game then exploded with a major fracas that ended with a red card for Kalamafoni and a yellow for Moriarty.

The Dragons took full advantage with a driving lineout from the penalty and scrum-half Jones crashed over from short-range to make it 15-13 to the visitors. Hanrahan and Halfpenny swapped a conversion and a penalty to make it 16-17 to the Dragons at half-time.

Halfpenny’s fourth penalty gave his side a 19-17 lead at the start of the second half before the Scarlets 14-men then enjoyed a period of pressure on the Dragons line. It ended with Blacker crashing over from short-range to extend the home side’s lead.

 

Halfpenny added the conversion before wing McNicholl crossed for the Scarlets third try right on full-time to record an unlikely but deserved home win.

Dragons head coach Dai Flanagan said: “No-one said it would be easy and that’s a big step backwards for us tonight. We lost all the collisions, all the 50-50s, and we can’t afford to do that.

“I am a bit disappointed because collectively we didn’t really stick to the script and we have got to look at why.

“Sometimes [the extra man] can work for you, sometimes against you. There are 15 different minds on the field. I have to look at connecting that and we didn’t quite get that right.

“It’s a physical game rugby and emotion just took over [in the red card incident]. I know Kalamafoni pretty well and he’s a great human being, so I am pretty sure there was no poor meaning in it, if that makes sense.”

 

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