Australia may have walloped the Welsh in Cardiff ahead of taking on Scotland on Saturday, but there was one group of players in red who were ready for all-comers and Glasgow Warriors paid the price.
It was an odd game. Look at the possession figures and the Scarlets should have been buried by half time as Glasgow hammered them up front, winning the battle for the ball by about 70-30. Yet, not only was it the Welsh side who scored the only try of the opening 40 minutes, but that was the only time either side really looked like scoring.
True, Glasgow had a lot of pressure and managed to get a number of lineout mauls driving towards the home line, but when it really mattered – as with the one immediately after the Scarlets had a prop sin-binned – they messed up.
Individually, the backs were fine but, as a unit, they were all over the place. Peter Horne had a run at stand-off and never found the killer touch, while Mark Bennett ran elusively but too many passes managed to miss the men in support as he looked to exploit the gaps he had created.
“I thought that we were starting to get into our rhythm by the last ten minutes of the first half,” said Gregor Townsend, the head coach. “We were starting to build some phases and apply some pressure in the right areas of the field. The possession and territory stats were in our favour and we were 7-1 on the penalty count as well. Having had that pressure, we needed to put more points on the board.
“We expected to build on that first half so we were very disappointed that there was a try early on – a good individual attack and good support play but, from our perspective, also poor defence. That made it tough and we did not play well after that.”
The thing was that, on paper, it was not a bad back division. Ali Price at scrum-half and Rory Hughes on the wing had been among the invitees at the Scotland camp. Horne and Bennett may well play against Australia, despite this game. Nick Grigg, another invited to train with Scotland, came off the bench. It may have been the problem. Whether they were still in Scotland mode, failed to cope with the transition from one group to the other or, like John Barclay, the lone Scot in the Scarlets ranks, came back from Scotland training in no fit state to get involved in club action, is hard to say.
Whatever the reason, they played as though they had barely met before.
“We never scored a try, that is true,” said Townsend. “We train a lot together. We played a lot of games and trained really well this week. I think we just overran things.
“A couple of guys tried to make up for mistakes as well – that is when more mistakes happen. On a couple of occasions when we got breakaways in the second half, we let go of the ball. It was not a great night for us.”
Even though they lost the second half by a greater margin, Townsend will be more worried by the impotence of the first half which saw Glasgow camped in the Scarlets 22 but conceding the only touchdown of the half with a breakaway try by the Welsh finished by Will Boyde, the No 8.
A sucker score straight after the break – five players missed Rhys Patchell, the Scarlets stand-off, as he ran a kick back into traffic and laid on a score for Jonathan Evans, the scrum half – seemed to panic the Scots.
The passing got even worse, the pack started to creak at the set piece and the discipline disappeared, with 11 penalties and two yellow cards scuppering their chances as the Scarlets took advantage to maul Boyde over the line for his second score.