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Connacht stunned by Scarlets comeback as 21-point interval lead slips away in Pro14 thriller

Andy Friend’s side coasted to a 33-13 lead by half-time but only scored three points in the second half.

Image: Andy Watts/INPHO

Scarlets 41

Connacht 36

CONNACHT THREW AWAY a commanding 21 point half-time lead as they were beaten by the Scarlets in what was a remarkable clash in Llanelli.

Andy Friend’s side coasted to a 33-13 lead by half-time with the Scarlets unable to cope with their sheer physicality. But whatever Glenn Delaney told his players in the changing room at half-time worked wonders as the Scarlets completed the mother of all PRO14 comebacks with 29 second-half points to all but secure their place in next season’s Champions Cup.

Connacht made the worst possible start when Wales blindside Shingler cross at the far left-hand corner after a terrific long pass from Scarlets captain Steffan Hughes.

But Connacht hit back immediately with a period of sustained pressure which resulted in Scarlets hooker Marc Jones being sent to the sin bin for illegally killing the ball at the breakdown. Connacht continued to apply the pressure with a couple of dominant scrums.

The ball was eventually spun wide for John Porch to coast over for their opening try.

And they were soon celebrating their second try with a break into the Scarlets 22 by Kieran Marmion putting them on the front foot. They eventually shifted it wide, with a long pass from Fitzgerald allowing Abraham Papali’i to crash over.

Scarlets full back Tom Rodgers had a try disallowed with referee Ben Whitehouse sending tighthead prop Pieter Scholtz to the sin bin for leading with the elbow into a tackle. And Connacht scored arguably their try of the season with impressive centre Sean O’Brien making a 50 metres break, before offloading to Porch who delicately flicked the ball back inside for O’Brien to score.

Steff Evans probed and attracted defenders, with a lovely offload sending Hughes over for the Scarlets’ second try. But Connacht hit straight back with the hosts missing too many first up tackles, and after going through the phases Dominic Robertson-McCoy dived over from short-range before Kieran Marmion crossed to give them a commanding 33-13 lead at the interval.

kieran-marmion-scores-a-try Kieran Marmion scores a try for Connacht. Source: Andy Watts/INPHO

The second half was a complete role reversal to the first with the Scarlets scoring three tries in the space of 18 minutes. Hughes was first to score after a strong break from Johnny Williams, before big lock Sam Lousi sent Dane Blacker over.

Rodgers then made amends for his disallowed try as he raced down the touchline to bring Scarlets back within two points. Jones then booted Scarlets into the lead before replacement prop Javan Sebastian powered over from short-range to complete a remarkable comeback.

Scarlets:

Tries: A Shingler 3, S Hughes 31, 46, D Blacker 51, T Rodgers 56, J Sebastian 74.

Cons: D Jones 32, 47, 52, 75.

Pens: D Jones 71.

Connacht:

Tries: J Porch 13, A Papali’I 18, S O’Brien 28, D Robertson-McCoy 36, K Marmion 39.

Cons: C Fitzgerald 14, 29, 37, 40.

Pens: J Carty 79.

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Scarlets: T Rodgers; T Prydie (W Homer 58), T Morgan (J Williams 41), S Hughes, S Evans (A O’Brien 41); D Jones, D Blacker; S Thomas (K Mathias 59), M Jones (R Elias 11-20, 59), P Scholtz (J Sebastian 59), L Rawlins (J Sebastian 29-39, T Ratuva 57), M Jones, A Shingler, J Morgan, S Kalamafoni.

Replacements not used: U Cassiem.

Connacht: J Porch; B O’Donnell (P Sullivan 57), S O’Brien, T Daly, A Wootton; C Fitzgerald (J Carty 60), K Marmion; J Duggan, S Delahunt, D Robertson-McCoy, N Murray, G Thornbury (O Dowling 52), P Boyle, C Oliver, A Papali’I (S Masterson 52).

Replacements not used: D Tierney-Martin, M Burke, F Bealham, C Reilly.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU).

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