The Reds were taught a lesson at Stade Santander International by their top-flight visitors from west Wales.
The Welsh region were without more than 20 players as a result of World Cup duty and injuries, but scored seven tries to three.
The home club’s online programme had mentioned Scarlets’ Johnny McNicholl as ‘one to watch’ and within two minutes the Kiwi full-back had showed why. He beat two tacklers and scorched towards the try-line before feeding Tom James for the opening score.
After scrum-half Kieran Hardy went close against his former side, second row Morgan Jones claimed Scarlets’ second, stretching full length to finish after taking Corey Baldwin’s pass.
The Reds had their moments with good runs from Auguy Slowik and Will Homer, and also looked solid at scrum-time. Eventually they grabbed a score back when Jack Macfarlane rumbled over from a maul, and could have trimmed the deficit further in the final play when George Spencer narrowly failed to pull off an interception in the Welsh side’s 22 - the ball was just knocked on when the centre would have been under the posts had he caught it.
As in the first half, the visitors struck early having brought on an entirely new line-up at the break. Ryan Conbeer went close in the corner and then Steffan Hughes followed up to cross.
Play was stopped while Scarlets’ Taylor Davies was treated for a head injury - the replacement hooker was stretchered off and went to hospital for a precautionary check-up having recovered consciousness.
Angus O’Brien’s cross-kick led to an easy catch and try for Tom Prydie, and although TJ Harris grabbed one back for Jersey, the visitors finished strongly with three tries in the last 15 minutes from Lewis Rawlins, O’Brien and Conbeer, the latter after an 80-metre kick-and-chase in which he outwitted multiple Red defenders. Jack Stapley had the final word for the hosts, going over in the airport corner in the last minute.
Reds director of rugby Harvey Biljon said: “It’s always disappointing to lose, albeit that it’s less painful in pre-season.
“As players and coaches I hope we go away and learn from this - we’ve been shown how far we still need to go if we want to continue to improve as a team.”
Scarlets Head Coach Brad Mooar said: ‘It was a really exciting first game - we created a lot of chances in the first half and our execution let us down a few times, but we did really well in the second half.”
“We had several new players and others coming back from long-term injury and I was really pleased with the way they performed.”
Williams; Slowik, Spencer, Ma’afu (c), Van Dam; Cope, Homer; Morley, Macfarlane, Clarey, Hallam-Eames, Bartle, Upfield, Joyce, Argyle. Replacements: Harris, Godfrey, Alexis, Thompson, Bainbridge, Hatherell; Howley, Penberthy, Best, Newey, Stapley
1st half: McNicholl; James, Baldwin, Asquith, Williams; Dan Jones, Hardy (Evans); Price, Marc Jones, Kruger (c), Helps, Morgan Jones, Kennedy, Macleod, Phillips
2nd half: Rogers; Prydie, Nicholas, Hughes (c), Conbeer; O’Brien, Evans (Blacker); Fawcett, Davies, Gardiner, Cummins, Rawlins, Drake, Davis, Miles
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Man-of-the-match (as chosen by Santander International): Alec Clarey (Jersey Reds)
Tries: Macfarlane 31, Harris 60, Stapley 80
Conversion: Penberthy 60
Tries: James 2, Morgan Jones 26, Hughes 45, Prydie 53, Rawlins 65, O’Brien 72, Conbeer 75
Conversions: Dan Jones 2, 26, O’Brien 45, 53, 65, 72, 75
23 Mar 2023
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