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Another cup defeat, but plenty for Scarlets to be positive about

By Llanelli Star  |  Posted: November 14, 2012

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SO, no champagne opening to the Scarlets' LV= Cup challenge this year, but Simon Easterby still left Sixways on Saturday evening with his glass very much half full.

"Plenty of positives," was the verdict of the region's head coach in the wake of a result that in the end flattered the hosts.

After all, Easterby's absentee list had reached an estimated 23 when fly-half Aled Thomas was withdrawn in the warm-up because of a groin niggle.

Yet, early in the second half the visitors led 13-6 and perhaps should have been further in front.

Ultimately, the Warriors' Premiership muscle told, aided by the introduction of a power-packed bench that the Scarlets struggled to deal with.

But Easterby was far from disheartened with the performance of a side he admitted had been thrown together during the week.

"There were lots of positives at half-time — we were playing well, playing in the right areas, showing good physicality and turning the ball over," said the former Ireland flanker.

"But in the second half Worcester held on to the ball much better, got an early score and we started to slip off a few tackles. Two of their tries also came from our mistakes.

"There were a lot of new faces in there for us and the younger players would have learned a huge amount.

"They would have learned that it is tough physically at this level because Worcester brought on some big ball carriers in the second half.

"But I was really pleased we were able to expose those boys and they will only be better for this experience."

"I thought most of those stood up and delivered a performance."

Perhaps the most pleasing performance, though, was that of new tight-head signing Jacobie Adriaanse.

A late arrival to the UK because of Currie Cup commitments, the South African has been brought in to help solve the region's age-old scrummaging issues.

It may be premature to judge a player on 49 minutes in a low-key Anglo-Welsh contest, but Adriaanse did everything Easterby would have asked of him, anchoring a Scarlets scrum that was on top in the opening half, while also popping up with ball in hand.

Another to stand out was compatriot Joe Snyman, who again put in some big defensive hits and carried aggressively.

A 32nd-minute sin-binning for taking out Warriors skipper Dean Schofield at a line-out — an incident which saw Schofield also carded for retaliation — blotted his copybook, but the well-travelled lock seems to be settling into his Scarlets role.

Elsewhere, prop Shaun Hopkins, who hails from a bit closer to home in Crynant, also showed up well, adding to the scrum effort and claiming two crucial first-half turnovers, while wing Kristian Phillips again illustrated his searing pace, scoring one try and setting up another.

"I was happy with a lot of the individuals, but we just fell off the game as a team in the second half because of our lack of possession and territory," admitted Easterby. "We just couldn't get a foothold in the game."

A try from full-back Andy Fenby had been the highlight of a first half which saw the Scarlets outshine their Premiership hosts.

A turnover put Phillips haring down the touchline and he chipped over the top into the path of Fenby, who claimed the score, even though home fans felt he had lost possession in the process of touching down.

Owen Williams converted to add to his earlier two penalties, but the 20-year-old's kicking boots deserted him after that, missing four attempts at goal.

At the start of the second half the Scarlets had an opportunity to extend their lead, but a Fenby breakaway was halted by some desperate home defence, then Adriaanse was tackled just short after good interplay between Phillips, Maule and Adam Warren.

With experienced England international Andy Goode — who has clashed with the Scarlets in Leicester and Brive colours in recent years — on at half-time, the Warriors looked a far more effective unit, and the introduction of heavyweight carriers Semisi Tauvalu and Neil Best also made a significant impact.

Tries followed for replacement Ben Howard, Tongan back-rower Tauvalu, flanker Jake Abbott and Best to earn Worcester an unlikely try bonus.

Phillips replied by outstripping the home cover in a 60-metre kick and chase for his second try in as many games.

The Scarlets take on the Blues on Saturday evening knowing defeat will almost certainly end their hopes of replicating last season's Anglo-Welsh campaign, when they reached the semi-final stages.

It has been a bruising start, but there again, Leicester were hammered at Parc y Scarlets in the opening round last season and went on to lift the trophy.

More positive thinking.

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