|Pro14: Cardiff Blues v Scarlets|
|Cardiff Blues (7) 14|
|Tries: Lane, Adams Cons: J Evans, Tovey|
|Scarlets (16) 16|
|Try: G Davies Con: Halfpenny Pens: Halfpenny 3|
Scarlets climbed to the top of Conference B with a hard-fought Pro14 Welsh derby win at Cardiff Blues.
Eleven points from the boot of Leigh Halfpenny and a superb interception try from Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies sealed the win.
Cardiff Blues responded with converted tries from Wales wings Owen Lane and Josh Adams.
The hosts were made to rue three missed penalty kicks at goal in a tight affair at the Arms Park.
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Scarlets had started the evening third in the Conference B table, four points ahead of the Blues after nine rounds of action but this victory lifted Brad Mooar’s side above Munster and Edinburgh.
Scarlets made three changes from the team that defeated Ospreys 44-0, with Werner Kruger, Tevita Ratuva and Uzair Cassiem coming into the pack.
Blues made five changes as they targeted a hat-trick of Welsh derby wins, with head coach John Mulvihill naming an unchanged backline but reshuffling his pack.
Number eight Nick Williams returned after recovering from a leg injury and missing the festive period wins over Ospreys and Dragons.
A further change in the back row saw Will Boyde returning to face his former side alongside Williams and Josh Navidi, who again captained the side after signing a four-year deal this week.
Props Rhys Gill and Scott Andrews and lock Filo Paulo were also included.
There were late changes to both teams among the replacements, with Louis Rawlins, Jac Morgan and Javan Sebastian coming in for ill trio Blade Thomson, Sam Lousi and Samson Lee. Jason Harries replaced Matthew Morgan on the Blues bench.
There was a lot of anticipation from the capacity crowd and there was a stunning start from Blues fly-half Jarrod Evans from the kick-off, with a sniping run starting from an outrageous dummy.
Evans missed the opening penalty before Halfpenny slotted over the first successful kicks of the game.
Blues responded with an excellent try from wing Lane, who cleverly collected his own grubber kick to score after being released by a slick offload from Hallam Amos.
Evans converted to give the hosts the lead before seeing his pass expertly intercepted by Scarlets scrum-half Davies, who sprinted away to score after beating Adams and Amos.
Davies demonstrated his try-scoring prowess, answering the pressure for his Wales starting spot from Blues rival Tomos Williams and Rhys Webb who is now eligible for international rugby again.
Halfpenny converted and slotted over a penalty to extend the half-time lead to 16-7 with Cardiff Blues turning down chances to kick at goal in the first 40 minutes.
Jarrod Evans was forced off at the interval after failing a head injury assessment and his replacement Jason Tovey missed an early second-half penalty attempt.
A chaotic quarter was ended with a brilliant counter-attack from the Blues, with Rey Lee Lo and Adams exchanging passes before the Wales wing sprinted away to score against the region of his birth.
A crunching tackle from Josh Turnbull on Ryan Conbeer galvanised the home crowd and yielded a penalty, before Irish referee Frank Murphy also further penalised Scarlets flanker Josh Macleod.
Tovey missed the resulting kick and Scarlets hung on for victory.
Scarlets head coach Brad Mooar: “The factors that won us that game was outstanding goal-kicking from Leigh Halfpenny, Gareth Davies’ superb try and a hell of a spirit from the group at the end.
“We have had a good week and our guys have done a super job at the breakdown.
“We had opportunities to take the game away but we did not take that and left them in the game but we held on.”
Cardiff Blues head coach John Mulvihill: “It is a very disappointing changing room because that is a game we should have won.
“It is the best defensive performance we have had in a year and a half. We scored two tries to one and that score for them was an intercept so they were going nowhere.
“But you can’t give a team like that so many penalties and we let them off the hook with indiscipline in attack.
“We did not mount enough pressure and did not take our points.”
Cardiff Blues: Amos; Lane, Lee-Lo, B Thomas, Adams; J Evans, T Williams; Gill, Belcher, Andrews, Paulo, Turnbull, Navidi (capt), Boyde, N Williams.
Replacements: E Lewis, Domachowski, Assiratti, Ratti, Robinson, L Williams, Tovey, Harries.
Scarlets: Halfpenny; Conbeer, Hughes, Parkes, S Evans; O’Brien, G Davies; W Jones, Owens (capt), Kruger, Ball, Ratuva, Shingler, Macleod, Cassiem.
Replacements: Price, Elias, Sebastian, J Morgan, Rawlins, Hardy, Lamb, Asquith.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistants: Adam Jones (Wales) & Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland).
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