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Scarlets beaten in Johannesburg

Scarlets will fly back from South Africa empty handed after falling to a 32-15 defeat to the Emirates Lions in the sweltering heat of Johannesburg.

Similar to the Stormers loss nine days earlier, the West Walians allowed their hosts to build up a healthy early advantage that they weren’t able to recover from.

Scarlets did score three tries and had chances to cross for more, but the Lions’ lead was never threatened throughout a frustrating contest.

The home side shot out of the blocks and after fly-half Jordan Hendrikse landed an early penalty, wing Rabz Maxwane weaved his way over for his side’s first try.

Sam Costelow pulled a penalty attempt wide, then the Lions struck again with barnstorming No. 8 Emmanuel Tshitsuka barging his way over at the posts from a powerful home scrum.

Sam Lousi thought he had crossed only for the score to be chalked off by the officials for the lock picking the ball up from an offside position at the ruck, but the Scarlets’ endeavour was rewarded when openside Dan Davis touched down from a line-out rumble. 

A searing break from Costelow led to the Lions being reduced to 14 men, but on the stroke of half-time the fly-half was binned for a high challenge and the siege-gun boot of Hendrikse extended the home advantage to 18-5 at the interval.

To compound matters, the Scarlets lost Vaea Fifita early in the second half after the second row took a swinging arm to the face. He was replaced by Sione Kalamafoni.

A slick line-out move saw back-rower Jaco Kriel cross for the Lions’ third try on 55 minutes, but the Scarlets hit straight back with a score of their own through wing Tom Rogers.

Hooker Taylor Davies snaffled up a loose home line-out and when the ball was spread wide Rogers was freed for a simple run-in to touch down for his second try in as many games.

Rogers almost bagged another after great work by Lousi; the winger was brought down a yard short, Hendrikse saw yellow for slapping the ball into touch, but the Scarlets were unable to take advantage from the ensuing line-out.

Instead it was the Lions who were celebrating at the other end with the impressive Tshituka claiming his second and his side’s bonus-point score.

In testing conditions, the Scarlets kept throwing everything at the hosts and in the final minute, Lousi touched down for a deserved consolation score.

The Scarlets will look to dust themselves down as they now turn their attention to European action and a Challenge Cup tie against Bayonne at Parc y Scarlets next Sunday, December 11.