London Irish 14-33 Scarlets: Exiles European Challenge Cup campaign ends in defeat

London Irish v Bayonne

LONDON IRISH were defeated in their final European Challenge Cup pool game as they exited the competition with just one win from six games.

Scarlets responded with five tries after Irish had taken the lead with the first try of the match to win by a comfortable margin at the Madejski Stadium.

Playing purely for pride after their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals were ended last weekend away at Bayonne, Irish faced a tough test against the Welsh outfit.

Irish were looking to enact some revenge on Scarlets, who still had a chance of qualifying heading into the tie, after they defeated Iris in the first pool game of the competition.

After some early pressure from Irish, Scarlets defended well to clear away from danger as both sides traded possession in the opening 15 minutes.

Irish ventured forward as they looked for the first score of the match after Stephen Myler kicked deep into the Scarlets half after a penalty.

The Exiles then won two successive penalties and opted for a scrum on both occasisons. It was a decision that paid off as Albert Tuisue burst through two Scarlets tackles from the base of the scrum to touch down for the first try. Myler converted to put Irish 7-0 ahead.

But the Welsh side responded almost instantly as they worked the ball out to the right wing where Corey Baldwin used his blistering pace to touch the ball down in the corner depsite Irish’s best efforts to stop him. Leigh Halfpenny converted to level the score at 7-7 with 22 minutes on the clock.

Scarlets began to take control and after a long review from the TMO, they were awarded their second try as it was judged that Dan Jones was able to plant the ball on the line as Irish tried to hold the ball up. Halfpenny added the extras to make it 14-7 to the visitors.

A third try was in the pipeline and Scarlets managed to get it just three minutes before half-time with some quick thinking from Kieran Hardy who caught the Irish defence napping as he took a quick tap and go before squeezing his way over. Halfpenny added his third successful conversion to give Scarlets a 21-7 lead at the break.

The hosts were dealt a blow early in the second half as Saia Fainga’a was shown a yellow card and sin binned for 10 minutes to reduce the Exiles to 14 for dragging down a rolling maul.

Scarlets made instant use of their one man advantage as another rolling maul was pulled down, resulting in the referee awarding them a penalty try to give them a bonus point try and increase their lead at 28-7.

The Premiership side’s miserable evening continued as Scarlets added a fifth try in the 58th minute through Steff Evans. Halfpenny missed his first kick of the evening from a tricky angle, with Scarlets leading 33-7.

Tuisue got over for his second try of the game to reduce the deficit in the 77th minute. Myler added the extras to make it 33-14 to the away side which proved to be the final score of the game as the Welsh side went away with a comprehensive victory.

Irish return to Gallagher Premiership action next with an away trip to second placed Northampton Saints on Friday evening.

London Irish: Stokes; Rona, Stephenson, Hepetema, Hassell-Collins; Myler, Phipps; Hobbs-Awoyemi, Fainga’a, Hoskins, Maddison, Van der Merwe (capt), Rogerson, Ioane, Tuisue.

Replacements: Atkins, Dell, Kepu, Mafi, Curtis-Harris, Meehan, Williams, Veitokani.

Scarlets: Halfpenny; Baldwin, Hughes (capt), Parkes, S Evans; D Jones, Hardy; W Jones, Elias, Lee, Ball, Ratuva, Shingler, Macleod, Cassiem.

Replacements: Owens, R Evans, Kruger, Lousi, Rawlins, Blacker, O’Brien, Asquith.

Referee: Ludovic Cayre (Fra).

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