Scarlets 20-16 London Irish: Exiles edged by Scarlets in European opener

London Irish opened their European Challenge Cup campaign with a narrow defeat away at Scarlets but came away with a losing bonus point.

A closely fought contest saw the sides go in level at the break, with the hosts scoring the only try of the second half to take the win, while Irish came away from Wales with a losing bonus point.

Irish enjoyed the majority of the early possession as they pushed into the hosts half. After winning a penalty, Stephen Myler kicked into the right hand corner to find touch but Irish knocked the ball on after the line out.

Scarlets began to grow into the game and put the first points of the game on the board as Dan Jones kicked over from a penalty to make it 3-0.

The Exiles had another good spell and burst forward on the wing as Matt Williams kicked the ball forward, but was prevented from chasing his own kick as he was cynically taken down, winning Irish a penalty.

After again finding touch in the corner from the boot of Myler, the visitors took advantage as Motu Matu’u broke through the Scarlets defence to score the first try of the match. Myler kicked the extras to make t 7-3 to Irish.

Irish were reduced to 14 players for 10 minutes as Campbell was sin binned for a deliberate knock on.

With just under half an hour played Scarlets scored their first try of the match as Corey Baldwin chased down a kick and after a fortuitous bounce, he beat Myler to the ball and got over the line.

Irish then took the lead as Myler kicked over two penalties before the break, the second of which he accurately punted the ball between the posts from long range to make it 13-10 to Irish.

But the Welsh side made sure the sides would go into the half time deadlocked at 13-13 as Jones converted a penalty from close range.

Irish surrendered an early chance to retake the lead early in the second half as Myler put the ball just wide of the posts.

The home side scored the first points of the second half with a superb try. Jones chipped the ball over the ball over the top and Steff Hughes chased and caught the ball to before touching over the whitewash to round off a brilliant move. Jones added the extras to make it 20-13 to the hosts.

Irish reduced the deficit just a few minutes later in the 55th minute as Myler converted from close range to make it 20-16.

Scarlets avoided a yellow card for a high tackle, but the penalty gave Irish another chance to kick to the corner as Myler found touch deep inside the Welsh sides half. But Scarlets survived the pressure from Irish and were awarded a penalty from the scrum.

A fantastic kick from Tom Stephenson put Scarlets on the back foot as he found touch just five metres from the oppositions try line. But the hosts defended well to shut the visitors out and clear from danger.

Scarlets held out against the Irish resistance to win the match by just four points to get off to a winning start in pool two.

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Andy Preston @@andypreston96
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