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Scarlets dig deep to beat Bulls in thriller

SCARLETS claimed their first ever URC victory over the Vodacom Bulls to make it seven wins from their last eight games in all competitions.

The West Walians withstood a strong second-half Bulls comeback to hold out and finish the game with a bonus-point try to secure a 37-28 victory.

After scoring three first-half tries, the Scarlets spent the vast majority of the second period on the defensive, but showed huge character and resolve against a fully-loaded South African side.

No. 8 Sione Kalamafoni won the player-of-the-match award, with flanker Dan Davis and scrum-half Gareth Davies also producing standout displays. Crucially, Sam Costelow had a faultless night in front of goal, kicking 15 points.

Led out by Aaron Shingler for the first time, the Scarlets were on the board early thanks to Costelow penalty, but the Bulls hit straight back when scrum-half Zak Burger raced through a gap in the home defence to cross at the posts.

The see-sawing nature of the early exchanges continued with the Scarlets regaining the lead thanks to a step and good strength from openside Davis from short-range. Costelow landed the conversion and it wasn’t long before the fly-half was lining up another.

This time it was prop Kemsley Mathias who gave the Bulls a taste of their own medicine by carrying over the whitewash for the second. Costelow again added the extras.

It got better quickly for the home side.

More outstanding work from Davis set up another attack and from a clever kick downfield from Costelow, scrum-half Gareth Davies raced onto the ball, gathered and crossed for try number three.

Costelow added another two points and then a long-range penalty to make it 24-7 to the hosts, but after Joe Roberts was shown yellow at a ruck, the Bulls claimed a second when wing Stravino Jacobs gathered a cross-kick to score. Fly-half Chris Smith was again on target with the conversion.

Scarlets thought they had their fourth and Davies his second just before the interval, but after lengthy deliberations, the officials ruled a knock-on as the scrum-half chased down a loose pass and touched down.

Costelow extended the lead with a penalty four minutes after the restart, but the Bulls then took a stranglehold on the contest.

Back-rower Cyle Brink powered over for a third and when replacement prop Simphewe Matanzima did the same only two points separated the sides with 12 minutes remaining.

But the Scarlets dug deep, claiming a couple of crucial turnovers, before they struck in clinical fashion in the final minutes.

Replacement Dane Blacker freed Ryan Conbeer down the touchline, wing David Kriel was yellow carded for a late challenge on the winger and from the penalty, Scarlets spread the ball for full-back Johnny McNicholl to cut the line and cross for his sixth try in the last seven games.

With Parc y Scarlets in fine voice, the home side saw out the game without any further scares to claim their fourth league win of the season and maintain their unbeaten run in 2023.