Davies hits try landmark as Scarlets ease past Zebre

Gareth Davies scores a try

Gareth Davies hit a try-scoring landmark to help ease Scarlets clear of the United Rugby Championship basement at Zebre.

Davies became the seventh player in league history - and only the second Welshman - to score 50 tries as he grabbed a first-half double.

Ryan Elias and Tomi Lewis also crossed in Parma as Scarlets clinched their first URC win outside of Wales for more than two years.

Defeat would have seen Scarlets face a Wooden Spoon shootout against fellow Welsh region Dragons in the final game of the season.

But victory lifted them seven points clear of bottom side Zebre who had taken an early lead at Stadio Lanfranchi through captain Giovanni Licata.

Scarlets, two-time winners of this competition, needed big performances from key players and the likes of Wales trio Elias, Taine Plumtree and player of the match Gareth Davies responded.

Scarlets made two changes, with Lloyd replacing Wales team-mate Sam Costelow and a return for Alex Craig, who has made the second most tackles in the entire URC.

However the fit-again lock could not prevent Zebre captain Licata opening the scoring inside four minutes.

Zebre will have targeted this game against fellow strugglers to end their run of 11 league defeats in a row and dominated the opening stages.

But Scarlets hit back as Carwyn Tuipulotu, Johnny Williams, Kemsley Mathias and Taine Plumtree all went close before Davies' short pass opened space for Elias to cross.

Plumtree's outrageous one-handed offload to Lewis set up Davies for his first try as Scarlets found their rhythm.

Giovanni Montemauri nudged Zebre ahead with two penalties, but his casual pass was picked off by Davies who galloped half the pitch for his second.

Quick hands by Eddie James sent Lewis scampering over to score for the second game in a row and clinch a bonus point less than three minutes into the second half.

Scarlets looked in control at 26-13, but Davies' scuffed kick gifted Zebre a brief route back as prop Muhamed Hasa barged over in the corner.

But the visitors defied their recent poor form of four losses in a row by keeping their composure with an assured display.

Dan Davies' burst saw Zebre replacement scrum-half Thomas Dominguez shown a yellow card and Sam Costelow added points with the boot to ease Scarlets to victory.

Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel said: "We're absolutely delighted with the win. We dominated possession and took our chances when we go into their half.

"I felt at times we let them back in it but we took back control of the game and scored some good tries.

"They came after us but credit to the lads, we stuck at it, played in the right areas and got the rewards."

Zebre assistant coach Richard Hodges said: "Losing two key members of our backline so early really impacted us.

"We showed plenty of fight, but we probably made twice as many tackles as Scarlets did and that took its toll.

"Scarlets have good players and their kicking game in the second half with Sam Costelow put us in all sorts of areas where we didn't want to be. They deserved the win."

Zebre: Geronimo Prisciantelli; Jacopo Trulla, Luca Morisi, Enrico Lucchin, Lorenzo Pani; Giovanni Montemauri, Gonzalo Garcia; Danilo Fischetti, Giampietro Ribaldi, Muhamed Hasa, Leonard Krumov, Andrea Zambonin, Giacomo Ferrari, Davide Ruggeri, Giovanni Licata (capt).

Replacements: Tommaso Di Bartolomeo, Alessio Sanavia, Juan Pitinari, David Sisi, Matteo Canali, Thomas Dominguez, Fetuli Paea, Bautista Stavile.

Sin bin: Dominguez (71)

Scarlets: Ioan Nicholas; Tomi Lewis, Johnny Williams, Eddie James, Ryan Conbeer; Ioan Lloyd, Gareth Davies; Kemsley Mathias, Ryan Elias (capt), Harri O’Connor, Alex Craig, Morgan Jones, Taine Plumtree, Dan Davis, Carwyn Tuipulotu.

Replacements: Shaun Evans, Wyn Jones, Sam Wainwright, Jarrod Taylor, Ben Williams, Kieran Hardy, Sam Costelow, Macs Page

Referee: Sam Grove-White (SRU)

Assistant referees: Clara Munarini & Alberto Falvero (FIR)

TMO: Colin Brett (SRU)