RaboDirect Pro12: Dragons 6-10 Scarlets
Newport Gwent Dragons (6) 6
- Pens :
- Tovey 2
Scarlets (7) 10
- J Edwards
- Cons :
- Pens :
- A Thomas
Understrength Scarlets stunned Welsh rivals Newport Gwent Dragons with a gutsy, rearguard triumph in the Pro12 League at Rodney Parade.
Openside flanker Johnathan Edwards scored the game's only try as the opening quarter drew to a close and full-back Dan Newton converted.
Jason Tovey kicked the Dragons points with two first-half penalties.
But ex-Dragons Aled Thomas kicked the only points after the break.
Wales' most-cappled player, fly-half Stephen Jones, was supposed to be among those changes by coming in for Rhys Priestland, but he fell victim to a back problem ahead of kick-off.
That meant third-choice fly-half Aled Thomas starting at 10.
The build-up talk was dominated by the Scarlets' decision to make 14 starting line-up changes from the side that beat the Ospreys in their previous festive period encounter.
But the aftermath was all about how a side shorn of so many front-line stars were able to win at Rodney Parade, where the hosts fielded their strongest available line-up.
There were outstanding performances among the home ranks from Wales number eight Toby Faletau, lock Adam Jones and full-back Martyn Thomas while wings Aled Brew and Tonderai Chavhanga attracted understandable attention from the visiting defence.
However, they were unable to capitalise on the greater share of possession, territory and penalty awards.
Injuries to fly-half Jason Tovey - who departed at the break - and centre Adam Hughes, also a goal-kicker, damaged the Dragons.
The kicking duties fell to 20-year-old centre Lewis Robling, making only his third start, and who missed three kickable penalties in the second period.
Defence and solid work at the breakdown was the foundation of the Scarlets' win.
The visitors made a combined total of more than 100 tackles and were sharper at the tackle area while the Dragons were unable to profit from the space they created and exploited out wide.
Time and again the visitors broke through the first line of Scarlets defenders. But time and again, their efforts came to nothing as possession was spilled, lost, stolen or simply wasted by poor execution.
Edwards' try proved the game's hightlight. Props Phil John and Deacon Manu's slick handling gave wing Andy Fenby the chance to take Chavhanga out of the defensive equation.
Maule and Dan Newton then combined to give Edwards his run to the line for Newton to convert.
Tovey kicked a penalty in reply, adding a second after number eight Kieran Murphy was sin-binned for a ruck offence as half-time beckoned.
But Tovey had already taken a heavy knock to a leg and his night ended with that final penalty shot.
With man-of-the-match Faletau, Brew, Chavhanga and Anitilea Tuilagi to the fore the Dragons strove to break through.
But it was not to be as Robling's boot let him down before Aled Thomas kicked the final points 16 minutes from the end and the Scarlets held on.
Newport-Gwent Dragons: M Thomas; Chavhanga, Hughes, Robling, Brew; Tovey, W Evans; N Williams, Burns, Buck, A Jones, Sidoli, Lydiate, Faletau, G Thomas.
Replacements: L Evans for M Thomas (62), Harries for Hughes (59), Tuilagi for Tovey (41), Price for N Williams (48), S Jones for Burns (77), Way for Buck (57).
Not Used: Groves, Bedford.
Scarlets: Newton; Iongi, Warren, Maule, Fenby; A Thomas, R Williams; John, Owens; Manu, Timani, Day, Turnbull, Murphy, J Edwards.
Replacements: D Evans for Newton (63), North for Fenby (50), G Davies for R Williams (50), I Thomas for John (50), Phillips for Owens (63), P Edwards for Manu (68), Reed for Timani (60), Pugh for Turnbull (50).
Ref: Neil Hennessey (Welsh Rugby Union).
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris, Huw David
Citing Commissioner: Jeff Mark
TMO: Tony Rowlands