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Scarlets get Challenge Cup campaign off to a flier

SCARLETS launched their EPCR Challenge Cup campaign with a 39-7 five-try bonus-point win over Aviron Bayonnais at Parc y Scarlets.

It was a comprehensive victory for Dwayne Peel’s side who flew out of the blocks and never lost their grip on this Pool B contest.

Ryan Conbeer, Dane Blacker, Sam Lousi, Blade Thomson and Steff Evans all got their names on the scoresheet, with player of the match Sam Costelow pulling the strings expertly and finishing with a 14-point haul.

The home side were 18-0 up and coasting inside the opening quarter.

Blacker and Ryan Conbeer combined down the blindside for the Saundersfoot speedster to cross for the opening score after seven minutes. Costelow nailed the conversion.

It got better quickly as Josh Macleod burst upfield before feeding Blacker on his outside for a free run to the whitewash.

With Scarlets dominating possession and territory, they were creating plenty of opportunities with full-back Johnny McNicholl looking threatening on the counter and centre Ioan Nicholas also showing up well.

Costelow added two further penalties before the French side enjoyed a lengthy period of pressure on the home line.

That led to Blade Thomson being sin-binned and Bayonne claiming their opening try through hooker Thomas Acquier, converted by fly-half Thomas Dolhagaray.

But back came the Scarlets. 

Bayonne were reduced to 14 men and with two minutes of the half remaining, lock Sam Lousi drove over to score in the corner.

Costelow’s radar was on target again for the touchline conversion and the home side went into the changing room 25-7 to the good.

The talk at half-time would have been about bagging the bonus-point and also keeping their own line intact and both objectives were achieved in the second period.

Scrum pressure led to Blade Thomson powering over for try number four, then on the hour mark Tomas Lezana, Kemsley Mathias and Sione Kalamafoni showed good hands to pave the way for replacement Steff Evans – on for the injured Tom Rogers – to race over for his 64th try in a Scarlets jersey.

Scarlets had further opportunities with Costelow slicing open the Bayonne defence from deep. They also managed to show strong defensive resolve to repel further attacks from the visitors to complete a comprehensive triumph.

The win and five competition points puts the Scarlets top of Pool B after one round of competition.

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