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Friday 17 August 2018

Scarlets blink first in rout

Leinster boss O'Connor salutes six-try rebound victory

There is this piece of fluff Sky Sports enacted to promote the Guinness PRO12 League. It is a staring competition. Pure. And simple.

Last Friday, Leinster's Jamie Heaslip and the Scarlets' Ken Owens faced off in a stare-down. Owens blinked first in what was a sign of things to come at the RDS.

Despite all the banter and pushed-out opinion from Leinster that the Scarlets had bought well, bred well and were a proposition to be taken seriously, the Welsh club did what they usually do in Dublin: they fell apart.

As the Lionel Richie song goes: 'I'm easy like Sunday morning'. As the Scarlets go, try Saturday afternoon. They were simply below acceptable levels of competitiveness against a rampant Leinster.

"We had a few wrongs to right from last week and, by and large, I think we did that," said Leinster coach Matt O'Connor.

"I thought we started very well and I thought we lost a little bit of our way when they scored that turnover try. For the most part of the first-half we were in control of it."

The only real blemish on the playbook came off out-half Jimmy Gopperth's careless pass which was turned into a first-half try by Wales centre Scott Williams.

It could have been the trigger to locate the speed and accuracy they showed against Ulster at Parc Y Scarlets. But, they weren't at home in West Wales. And it showed.

The Leinster 80 was evenly divided with three tries in each half, the equally electric Rob Kearney and Ian Madigan carving up a naïve defence, the champions moving into the top-half of the table.

It would have been remiss of Leinster to take the visitors on at the own game, but the youth, lack of size and inexperience of wings Harry Robinson and Jordan Williams and the late placement of Gareth Owens at full-back was ruthlessly exploited.

"We played in the right areas and we backed our set-piece. That was the plan going into the game and I think we delivered on that, which gave us a really good platform to attack from," continued O'Connor.

"Then, you are asking the guys to execute from the things we're doing in training and, from that end, I thought we scored some great tries in the first half off the back of the plan we set out before the game.

"It was about making sure that we got the four points and that we aimed up on both sides of the ball and I thought, by and large, we did that, which was pleasing."

Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac had to assess a situation which turned their energetic, exciting opening-day output against Ulster on its head.

"With a couple of new coaches coming in and a handful of new players, it is really about trying to get our game in order and improve each week," he offered. "Obviously, we took a big step back."

Consistency has always been a curse word around the Scarlets. For all the pretty patterns, they simply cannot sustain the beautiful game.

"It's a combination of poor decisions and poor defence and you throw them together you're on the end of a hiding."

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