Before Saturday’s encounter, Scarlets had won 29 out of the last 30 PRO14 games at Parc Y Scarlets.
Edinburgh hadn’t won away from home in the PRO14 this season, except in Scotland.
At half time it looked like that was a trend that was set to continue quite comfortably.
The second half was so different it was like that we were in the ‘upside down’.
In the first half, Edinburgh looked lethargic and Scarlets were winning everything on the floor. Referee George Clancy (if there was ever a phrase to strike fear in the hearts of rugby fans this is it) assisted by assistant referee Joy Neville decided early on that Edinburgh were scrummaging illegally. He gave penalties and free kicks to Scarlets at will thereby negating one of Edinburgh’s most potent weapons.
Handling errors abounded and there seemed little that Edinburgh could do to arrest this slump.
Scarlets opened the scoring in the 11th minute. The score from scrum-half Gareth Davies was well executed but the inside pass from stand-off Dan Jones to Leigh Halfpenny that cut Edinburgh open looked forward by a country mile. Halfpenny slotted the conversion to give Scarlets an early 7 point lead.
Their second try came on the 24th minute. It started with a cheeky 22 drop-out that Dan Jones dinked straight into the arms of winger Johnny McNicholl who carried the ball unopposed into the Edinburgh half. The ball was recycled a couple of times before it found its way out left to Steff Evans. He passed it inside to Jonathan Davies who snapped it back out to Evans again. A couple more phases followed before a nice pass from Ken Owens released Steff Evans into space who got almost to the line before giving it once again to Jonathan Davies to score. This time Halfpenny couldn’t add the extra 2 points.
This was a lovely try and the ball must have passed through every set of Scarlet hands on its way to the try line but like the earlier score the pass early in the move from Davies to Evans looked forward and merited a second opinion.
As a poor half of rugby from an Edinburgh point of view drew to a close, Edinburgh finally started to exert some pressure on their hosts which resulted in Ken Owens being shown a yellow card for collapsing a maul within sight of his own line. Edinburgh having had little scoring opportunities to that point opted to kick for goal. Jaco Van Der Walt missed the relatively easy kick though and as Scarlets charged up the field, Edinburgh were lucky to end the half without conceding a further score.
Half-time: Scarlets 12-0 Edinburgh
A cracking Stuart McInally turnover in the early stages of the second half eventually led to a kickable penalty and Van Der Walt made no mistake this time, finally giving Edinburgh a foothold on the scoreboard.
The visitors got their first try of the match just before the start of the last quarter. Some sustained pressure and territory led to a penalty and a lineout on the Scarlets 5 metre line. Edinburgh took it quickly and set up for a driving maul. Hamish Watson peeled off the back of the maul and popped it to Matt Scott running a direct line back inside to score under the posts. Van Der Walt kicked the conversion and narrowed the gap to two points.
With momentum building, a resurgent Edinburgh finally took the lead in the 65th minute with a solo try from Jaco van Der Walt who pounced on a loose Halfpenny offload to run in the try from just within his own half. He converted his own try.
From the following kick off Scarlets conceded a penalty which Van Der Walt kicked into the Scarlets half. Under pressure, they then conceded another penalty from the lineout which Van Der Walt stroked over the posts to give his side an 8 point lead as the game entered the last 10 minutes.
Neither side was able to add any further points in the remaining time; the blue and burnt orange of Edinburgh kept their season alive.
It was a proverbial game of two halves and Cockers mantra to “stay in the fight” has never been more accurate.
Ulster are up next at BTM and that game has taken on huge importance but what price now a showdown with Glasgow in the last game of the regular season to secure a place in the playoffs?
Referee: George Clancy(IRFU)
SRBlog Man of the match: Jaco Van Der Walt had an excellent second half. He scored the try that gave Edinburgh the lead and his boot helped extend that but once again it was Darcy Graham that caught my eye. He was probably the only Edinburgh player who looked like his head was in the game in the first half and his incisive running and eye for a gap gave the team some hugely important go forward.