Gregor Townsend spoke during the week about how important it is for Glasgow Warriors to emerge from this Six Nations window with a positive overall record, but this was a disastrous start in which they failed to claim so much as a losing bonus point.
The coach said he was encouraged by the way the team had prepared for this match, and insisted that there is enough strength in depth in the squad to cope with the loss of 13 players to international duty – but that wasn’t evident in a desperately flat performance. They just couldn’t hold on to the ball for long enough to build any pressure.
This defeat means the Warriors have slipped behind the Scarlets into fifth place. The plan had been to keep the pressure on Munster and the Ospreys in the battle for a top two (home play-off) finish, but they now face a battle just to make it into the end-of-season shoot-out. With tricky trips to Ulster and the Ospreys looming in the coming fortnight life is not going to get any easier for Glasgow.
Stand-off Rory Clegg put the hosts ahead in the second minute with a collapsed scrum penalty but opposite number Daniel Jones levelled with a long-range effort from just short of the halfway line.
The Scarlets No 10 was then rather harshly yellow-carded after mis-timing his lunge and clumsily colliding with Sam Johnson a few seconds after the Warriors centre had hacked the ball ahead.
The home team wasted no time in making their extra man advantage count: kicking the penalty to the corner and then driving over the line for Pat MacArthur to get the ball down – but they couldn’t sustain it and the Scarlets bounced back almost immediately, with Tom Williams converting his own try after Henry Pyrgos rushed out of the defensive line. Clegg and Jones exchanged two more penalties. Then there was a kick in the teeth for the hosts just before the break when James Davies bustled past Peter Murchie’s tackle and stretched over the line, Jones converting from the touchline.
Clegg narrowed the gap with his third penalty in the 49th minute, but the Warriors continued to cough up possession under pressure from a marauding Welsh back-row.
Rob Harley fumbled possession in a promising position on the Scarlets 22, and a few moments later Murchie hacked a loose ball sideways instead of dropping it and Nick Grigg picked up from an offside position to gift Jones an easy three points.
If the yellow card in the first half was harsh then Tom Price can count himself very lucky he did not receive the same punishment or worse for a shoulder charge on Rory Hughes as the winger was getting back to his feet after making a tackle.
However, an Aled Thomas penalty with five minutes to go killed off any hope the hosts might have had of salvaging something from this frustrating experience.