The Lions had fought back gamely in the second half to trail by only seven points on the hour, but two late tries and two penalties saw the score blow out as the Scarlets’ greater cohesion on both attack and defence told in the long run.
The home team claimed the bonus point with a fourth try from the final movement of the match – the third to be scored from long-range as the Lions’ defence was at sixes and sevens – while the Lions’ solitary score (like the Scarlets’ first) had come from a goal-line barge by lock Ruben Schoeman.
It was a sad end for the Emirates Lions, but they had also made the worst possible start as they conceded a first try in the fifth minute. A knock-on by Hendrikse five metres from his own line as he scampered back to collect a kick ahead gave the Scarlets field position. From the resulting scrum possession the Scarlets had a succession of forward drives before prop Rob Evans breached the defence from a metre under the cross bar.
Hendrikse reduced the deficit to four points with a beautifully struck penalty from the half-way line in the 13th minute as the Lions were rewarded for an extended period of possession. But they again conceded a try when the Scarlets had a second scent of the Lions’ 22 area at the end of the first quarter. A five-metre lineout was collapsed but from the possession the Scarlets moved the ball to right wing Tom Rogers who was unopposed by a bamboozled Lions defence to dive in at the corner.
Flyhalf Sam Costelow converted for the second time and kicked two penalties either side of a second from Hendrikse to give the Scarlets a 20-6 halftime lead that they’d barely had to work to achieve. The Lions were their own worst enemies as two overthrown lineouts in the right hand corner within the space of two minutes before halftime painfully typified.
Twenty minutes into the second half the Lions finally got the try their effort deserved. The dominated the opening quarter but found it devilishly difficult to break through the home defence. In the end they simply bent back enough for lock Riben Schoeman to inch over from a metre.
Hendrikse converted to reduce the arrears to a single score at 20-13 but the suggestion of a comeback was quickly snuffed out. The first sniff of field position that the Scarlets enjoyed led to a penalty for Costelow to steer home from 40 metres before a second in quick succession from close in, next to the poles, after Rabz Maxwane was yellow carded for playing the ball on the ground from an offside position after a long-range break out.
Two tries in the final ten minutes blew out the score – hardly a fair reflection on the Lions’ effort – but a testimony to the Scarlets’ greater ability to break down a defence.
Scarlets 36 (20) – Tries: Rob Evans, Tom Rogers (2), Steff Evans. Conversions: Sam Costelow (2). Penalty goals: Costelow (4)
Emirates Lions 13 (6) – Try: Ruben Schoeman. Conversion: Jordan Hendrikse. Penalty goals: Hendrikse (2).