Leicester Tigers suffered as fourth defeat in the pool stages of the Heineken Champions Cup on Saturday evening as Scarlets recorded a 33-10 victory in Llanelli.
The result did not affect potential qualification for the knockout stages as Ulster’s earlier win over Racing in Belfast had ensured they were both out of reach in Pool 4, but it was the Welsh hosts who dominated as they led by 33 points before Tigers got on the scoresheet.
Scores for prop Rob Evans and then skipper Ken Owens gave the Scarlets a 12-0 lead at the break and two more in the opening 10 minutes of the second half put the game out of reach before they added a fifth.
Will Evans and then Mike Fitzgerald dotted down to give Tigers some reward for a tough day’s work at at Parc y Scarlets.
Scarlets, who had a run of 26 wins at home before defeat by Cardiff Blues at Christmas, named a team including eight Wales internationals though they again had to include Lions hooker Owens as an emergency No8 with so many back-rowers out of action.
Matt Toomua led Tigers out and lined up at fly-half as head coach Geordan Murphy made a number of changes from the team that recorded a bonus-point win over Gloucester on league duty a week earlier.
Scarlets got the game under way and Jonah Holmes, the Tigers’ Wales cap, was the first of the visitors to get a touch of the ball, setting up Ben White to kick back up to halfway.
But a scrappy and stop-start opening period – with free-kicks at three successive set-pieces setting the tone – remained locked at 0-0 until prop Evans provided the opening points on 25 minutes.
Both teams had chances to work up to the danger zone from set-pieces before losing control and Kyle Eastmond was in the thick of the defensive work in the Tigers backline as their rivls looked to open up play.
A penalty against Holmes, coming through a ruck to play scrum-half Gareth Davies, led to the first score as the Scarlets set up a drive on the left and, when scrum-half Gareth Davies was denied by Harry Wells on the tryline, Evans had enough to reach out and dot down.
Dan Jones missed his conversion kick and Tigers quickly saw a chance of their own on the right but then lost ball in midfield.
Another penalty gave Scarlets a second chance on 35 minutes as skipper Owens drove his way over next to the posts. This time Jones added the conversion to make it 12-0.
A break from Greg Bateman, latching on to a Wells turnover, looked promising for Tigers but he couldn’t find the support and Scarlets recovered to launch their own attack.
Quick hands from full-back Johnny McNicholl released Owens beyond the defensive line but George Worth stood his ground to bring him down and the half ended with Gareth Owen clearing the danger behind his own tryline as the Scarlets ended firmly on the front foot and with a 12-point lead.
Joe Ford joined the Tigers backline for the start of the second half, with Eastmond making way and Toomua reverting to a place at centre.
Lost ball in midfield, though, had Holmes chasing back towards his own line and, although he recovered ball, Tigers were whistled at the ruck and Scarlets went for the corner. The whistle blew again as they set up a drive, this time for obstruction, and Tigers kicked clear.
Ross McMillan replaced Jake Kerr in the front row as Tigers defended again, but Scarlets were not about to let their rivals off the hook as they kept their patience on the ball and Evans peeled off from the maul to score his second of the day .
Fly-half Jones made it 19-0 with the conversion from wide on the left and within two minutes he was called to kick again full-back McNicholl capitalised on a gap in the defence and a run from Hadleigh Parkes to run in the bonus-point score.
Tigers were back on the defensive after losing ball near halfway and had to face up to a Scarlets scrum 20 metres out, though finally took some relief as referee Mathieu Raynal signalled a penalty in the visitors’ favour.
Scarlets kept Tigers totally inside their own half, running back any loose ball and pushing penalties into the corners to keep up the pressure. After a lengthy phase of ball in the forwards just a few metres out, Mike Williams was yellow-carded for a no-arms tackle.
The home side’s response was to run in a fifth try in the left-hand corner for Steff Evans, though only after the referee had checked the grounding as Ben White made the covering tackle. Jones judged jhis conversion kick to perfection as the score reached 33-0 weiyh 15 miniutes left on the clock.
Sam Aspland-Robinson made his Tigers debut as a replacement for Gareth Owen and his first involvement was to win turnover ball on the left wing which led to a score in the opposite corner.
Jordan Olowofela made the break from halfway as Tigers switched play and, although he was brought down, Tigers quickly picked up play in support and Evans dived over to score. Joe Ford was off-target with the conversion from out wide.
Williams returned and almost provided a second score as he drove the forward pack at a lineout on the left and it required a tackle from Ioan Nicholas to keep out Brendon O’Connor just a couple of metres short of the corner.
Tigers still had penalty advantage and tried again in a similar spot, with Mike Fitzgerald credited with the try from close range. Ford struck the post with his conversion attempt as the game approached a close.