LLANELLI – The Southern Kings had their moments, but the Scarlets ultimately just had too much firepower to beat the South Africans 57-10 in their PRO14 opener on Saturday.
The defending champions from Llanelli in Wales had a number of internationals in their side, and weathered an early storm from the Kings, who played some enterprising rugby in the first half in particular.
The final score was arguably not an accurate reflection of the match, with the Kings just running out of steam in defence in the second half.
Flyhalf Kurt Coleman was the stand-out player for the Port Elizabeth-based team, making an early impact as he broke the line and made it to the Scarlets 22.
But the move broke down as Kings No 8 Andisa Ntsila was held up in possession.
Against the run of play, it was the Scarlets who opened the scoring when sharp scrumhalf Gareth Davies burst away down the blindside from a scrum.
The ball was recycled and swung wide to outstanding Johnny McNicholl – the former Crusaders wing – who showed his class in diving into the corner to score.
But the Kings responded with a superbly constructed try as Coleman put in a delightful chip over the top, and flying wing Yaw Penxe beat Leigh Halfpenny to the ball to round off and give the Kings a 7-5 lead.
The likes of Penxe, fullback Masixole Banda and flank Victor Sekekete made serious inroads into the Scarlets with their mixture of pace and power, and they stretched the Welsh side at times.
But experienced Welsh international fullback Halfpenny made amends in the 25th minute as he completed some good work by the forwards to put the Scarlets ahead once again.
Coleman and Halfpenny exchanged further penalties, and at 15-10 behind at halftime, the Kings were still right in the mix.
But the Scarlets soon realised that there were huge holes in the Kings’ defence around the rucks and up the middle, and that is how they wore down the visitors before scoring out wide.
The hosts produced a double strike in the 11 minutes after the break through flyhalf Rhys Patchell and lock Jake Ball, and that arguably broke the back of the Kings’ challenge at 29-10.
The lack of cohesion – due to the hastily assembled squad and little preparation time for Kings coach Deon Davids – soon turned into missed tackles.
The pressure eventually told as after not conceding any points for 15 minutes, the Kings gave away four tries in the last 15.
Scarlets 57 – Tries: Johnny McNicholl (2), Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Patchell, Jake Ball, Emyr Phillips, Hadleigh Parkes, Steffan Evans. Conversions: Halfpenny (3), Patchell (4). Penalty: Halfpenny (1).
Southern Kings 10 – Try: Yaw Penxe. Conversion: Kurt Coleman (1). Penalty: Coleman (1).
African News Agency (ANA)