SCARLETS 24, SALE SHARKS 23 Having not seen his side play for three weeks during the Invesco Perpetual Series, the Scarlets director of rugby Gareth Jenkins was worried his side would be rusty going into the key game in the group. And, despite taking the lead with a Regan King try in the first half, the Scarlets found themselves trailing 9-7 at half-time through three penalties to Sale outside half David Blair.
Jenkins gave his side a severe talking to at the interval and his words obviously fired up his team as they came storming back into the game after the break and quickly regained the lead with a driving line-out try from South African second row Hottie Louw. Outside half Mike Hercus, playing against his former club, added a second conversion and then stretched the home side's lead to 17-9 with a penalty. That was the cue for Jenkins to give Wales and Lions scrum half Dwayne Peel his first run of the season after overcoming an ankle injury.
Peel added new spark to the Scarlets and they were soon celebrating a second power try after the home pack shunted the understrength Sale eight over their line only for the scrum to collapse. The French referee had no hesitation in walking to the posts to signal a penalty try and Hercus added the extra points. It looked as though the Scarlets would coast home in the final quarter, but the sin binning of skipper Simon Easterby seven minutes from time gave Sale new hope.
They worked a great try for wing Chris Mayor and then the same player broke clear from his 22 from the re-start to set up Samoan centre Elvis Seveali'i for a thrilling 50 metre run to the posts for a second try in as many minutes.
Blair converted both to bring his side back to within a point and the last few minutes were extremely uncomfortable for the Scarlets. Easterby's return helped to steady the ship and he will now lead his side into the semi-finals at the Millennium Stadium in March.
Tries: R King, H Louw Penalty try
Cons: M Hercus 3
Pen: M Hercus
Tries: C Mayor, E Seveali'i
Cons: D Blair 2
Pens: D Blair 3
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.