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Last Updated: Friday, 2 January, 2004, 21:01 GMT
Scarlets best in west
CELTIC LEAGUE
Jonathan Thomas acts as peacemaker in a heated game
Scarlets (15) 28
Tries: B Davies (2), M Watkins, S Quinnell
Con: G Bowen
Pens: Bowen (2)
Ospreys (12) 15
Pens: S Connor (5)
Att: 10,195
Scarlets 28-15 Ospreys

The Llanelli side proved too strong for the revitalised Ospreys at Stradey Park in a vibrant west Wales derby.

The game was on a knife edge at 18-15 with 10 minutes to go when a moment of magic from Matthew Watkins sent Barry Davies in for his second try.

First-half tries from Davies and Watkins and a late effort from replacement Scott Quinnell ensured a bonus point for the home side.

All the Ospreys points came from the boot of Shaun Connor.

Kick-off was delayed by 10 minutes to give a huge crowd of 10,195 time to pack into Stradey Park and build a bubbling big-game atmosphere.

We knew that if we could get more possession in the second half the result would come
Scarlets captain Vernon Cooper
The players caught the mood and after a sustained Ospreys attack a Connor penalty opened the scoring for the visitors.

The furious, end-to-end exchanges continued, and with the Scarlets testing both flanks of the Neath-Swansea team a kind bounce fell to Davies who crossed for the home side's opening score.

Three Connor penalties allowed the Ospreys to edge back ahead with half-time approaching, but the home side gained heart when Andy Williams was sin-binned for killing attacking Scarlets ball underneath his own posts.

The Llanelli side opted for a scrum but blew their chance with a knock on, then when Connor missed touch with his clearance kick Davies went for a drop goal.

His effort was sliced badly wide, but another fortunate bounce fell to man-of-the-match Watkins who had a clear run in for the second try.

The visitors' 14 men held out under Scarlet pressure early in the second half, and when a Shane Williams break relieved the onslaught home flanker Simon Easterby was sin binned for killing the ball on the floor.

Connor slotted his fifth penalty to bring the scores level, but the advantage was back with the Scarlets after a 64th-minute Bowen goal.

Garan Evans gets to grips with Shane Williams
Shane Williams showed flashes of genius
With the game poised on a knife edge, a moment of magic from Watkins effectively settled the outcome.

He made a superb midfield break, drew the cover, then threw a wide pass to Davies who hit the line at speed to sprint in for his second try.

With the Ospreys' spirits starting to sag, Quinnell began to make some major inroads and was rewarded with the bonus-point try after spinning off a dynamic rolling maul.

Williams tried his best to break down the stubborn Scarlet defence with some fantastic one-on-one skills, but there was to be no denying the professional home outfit as the Ospreys slipped to their seventh successive defeat.

"We had no ball in the first half, but defended well," Scarlets captain Vernon Cooper told BBC Sport Wales.

It was physical, fast and great preparation for both teams
Ospreys coach Lyn Jones
"We knew that if we could get more possession in the second half the result would come, and that's how it worked out."

Ospreys coach Lyn Jones was pleased with the improvement shown by his side.

"We understand where we are and where we want to go, and I was very pleased with a lot of facets of our play," he said.

"It was physical, fast and great preparation for both teams for Europe next week."


Scarlets: B Davies; G Evans, T Selley, M Watkins, S Finau; G Bowen, M Phillips; I Thomas, A Gravelle, J Thiel, V Cooper (capt), C Wyatt, D Jones, S Easterby, D Hodges.
Replacements: P John, R McBryde, A Jones, S Quinnell, D Peel, S Jones, M Taylor.

Ospreys: S Williams; D Tiueti, E Sevalai'i, S Gibbs (capt), S Terblanche; S Connor, A Williams; A Millward, B Williams, A Jones, A Newman, J Thomas, J Bater, R Pugh, N Bonner-Evans.
Replacements: C Wells, G Llewellyn, C Griffiths, G Thomas, M Jones, J Storey, G Morris.

Referee: Nigel Whitehouse (Gower)




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