Scarlets 43-8 Cheetahs: Clinical Scarlets book PRO14 semi-final spot
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 05/05/18 9:26pm
A clinical performance from Scarlets delivered a 43-8 victory over the Cheetahs and booked their place in the Guinness PRO14 semi-finals.
The Welsh region will meet Glasgow Warriors in the last four at Scotstoun Stadium on May 18 but must wait on the fitness of full-back Leigh Halfpenny who left the field after 34 minutes.
Halfpenny provided a try and two conversions before his early exit with winger Steff Evans scoring a first-half double to help last season's domestic winners into their 24-3 lead at the interval.
Scarlets' try-scoring continued at will in the second 40 with Tom Prydie, James Davies and Jonathan Evans all scoring five-pointers of their own. The Cheetahs sustained their effort and pulled a try back but errors hampered their 80 minutes.
Wayne Pivac identified that his side needed to start quickly to show that they had learned from their Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Leinster and they did just that.
The home side dominated the possession and scored after just six minutes. Evans pounced out wide after his side had capitalised on a basic knock-on from their visitors, something that would become a theme of the first half. Halfpenny converted.
The South African side continued to thwart forays forwards through messy handling while Scarlets fired in all areas including physically dominating at the scrum.
It was that dominance which almost provided their next points however Halfpenny's penalty from halfway hit the post. Tadhg Beirne's 38th turnover of the PRO14 season quickly provided his full-back with a second chance and this time the British and Irish Lion's radar was on point to make it 10-0 after 17 minutes.
Scarlets kept their foot on the gas and ruthlessly capitalised on a messy offload from Clayton Blommetjies.
Blommetjies found Rhys Patchell instead of one of his teammates and the home side whipped it quickly across the park before Hadleigh Parkes fed Halfpenny for the score.
The full-back's conversion made it 17-0 before the Cheetahs finally opened their own account through Johan Goosen's boot.
The Cheetahs' errors continued as Uzair Cassiem, who is on his way to Scarlets next season, made a simple knock-on at the back at the scrum when attempting to pick up in his own 22.
With Scarlets' put-in Tom Prydie took route one however Paul Schoeman rolled the winger over the line and duly prevented the grounding.
Patchell took the home side's next shot at goal due to Halfpenny being replaced by Dan Jones and the strike missed the mark.
The miss did not shake Pivac's men as Evans stepped up two minutes later. The 23-year-old evaded the clutches of Francois Venter, chipped and collected to score an excellent solo try. Patchell's conversion pushed their lead out to 24-3 at the interval.
Prydie, denied earlier in the game, found his way over in the second half and with a 31-3 cushion Pivac started to make his front-row substitutions after just 46 minutes.
The pack provided Scarlets' fifth try, James Davies touched down after a driving maul, and Jonathan Evans' wheels secured their sixth with a quarter still left to play.
With ten minutes to go, the Cheetahs thought they had found a way through however Venter was penalised for blocking on Prydie and the score was scratched off.
To their credit the visitors continued to work hard for the full 80 and five minutes from time Blommetjies dotted down out wide.
As the time ticked into the red the Cheetahs could have doubled their try-scoring however Sibahle Maxwane was put off course by Patchell, who saw yellow for the act, however a penalty try was not given.
With the clock three minutes into the red, Maxwane determinedly chased a chip through but dropped it in the act of scoring and that summed up the Cheetahs' night.