Kevin Barnes/INPHO

Ulster surrender half-time lead to sink to heavy defeat to Beirne-inspired Scarlets

That’s now three defeats in four games for the northern province.

Scarlets 34

Ulster 10

ULSTER PRODUCED AN underwhelming display to go down to a shock 34-10 defeat to Scarlets in Llanelli.

The northern province Stuart McCloskey, but this was a game they really should have looked to win given their opponent’s long list of international call-ups.

Scarlets still came out on top in comfortable fashion, scoring tries through Ioan Nicholas, Ryan Conbeer, Paul Asquith and soon-to-be Munster forward Tadhg Beirne to record a bonus point.

Serious questions must be asked of Ulster for their performance here.

They started with a bang and scored in just the second minute.

Tommy Bowe picked off a high ball, sprinted clear and passed inside to McCloskey, the centre given a simple finish. Scrum-half John Cooney converted.

Against a strong Ulster side, Scarlets hit straight back with a period of pressure but after moving the ball left and right, they had to settle for a penalty for Dan Jones when a try looked likely.

The hosts weren’t taking a backward step, but it was Ulster who were the more threatening with ball in hand as Bowe especially looked dangerous in the wide channels.

Still, Wayne Pivac’s side stayed resolute in defence, with Wales flanker James Davies producing one crucial turnover.

Ulster then had a second try ruled out. McCloskey streaked into space and fed Nick Timoney who made it to the line. The score was sent upstairs and subsequently ruled out for Scarlets scrum-half Jonathan Evans being blocked from making a tackle in the build-up by Bowe and Matthew Rea.

It was a lucky escape for the Scarlets, who made it to the break only 7-3 down.

Stuart McCloskey scores his side's first try Kevin Barnes / INPHO Kevin Barnes / INPHO / INPHO

Scarlets started the second half with a bang. Jones was involved in a fine move which ended with Nicholas acrobatically diving over in the left corner. Fly-half Jones converted.

Cooney responded with a penalty to make it 10-10, but Ulster were struggling to get any form of dominance despite taking on a Scarlets side weakened by swathes of international call-ups.

It was now nip and tuck, Ulster surprisingly unable to move clear despite boasting the stronger team.

A simple Jones kick saw the advantage swing Scarlets’ way before substitute Conbeer produced a moment of magic. The young back weaved his way through the Ulster defence from more than 40 metres for what was a superb individual finish. Jones converted.

It gave Scarlets a 20-10 lead going into the final quarter and it was one they didn’t let go as Jones kicked ahead for Asquith to score the third try which he converted.

Nicholas had what would have been his second ruled out, but remarkably the bonus-point score then arrived with four minutes to go as Beirne stripped Timoney on his own line to score.

Scarlets scorers:

Tries: Nicholas, Conbeer, Asquith, Beirne
Conversions: Jones [4 from 4]
Pens: Jones [2 from 2]

Ulster scorers:

Try: McCloskey
Conversion: Cooney [1 from 1]
Penalty: Cooney [1 from 1]

SCARLETS: Williams; Baldwin (Conbeer 51), Asquith, S Hughes, Nicholas; Jones (I Hughes 77), J Evans (Smith 74); D Evans (Price 49), Elias (Phillips 73), Kruger (Gardiner 68), Cummins (Rawlins 59), Bulbring, Beirne, Davies (Boyde 56), MacLeod.

ULSTER: Ludik; Trimble (Nelson 65), L Marshall (Cave 67), McCloskey, Bowe; McPhillips, Cooney (P Marshall 73); Warwick (McCall 51), Andrew (Herring 51), Herbst (Ah You 62), O’Connor, Treadwell, Rea (Dalton 67), Timoney, Deysel (Henry 45).

Referee: Sean Brickell (WRU).

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