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Scarlets are aiming to cement their place at the summit of EPCR Challenge Cup Pool B as they welcome Toyota Cheetahs in Round 3 on Friday night.
The Welsh region have been in impressive form so far in this season’s competition, running in 11 tries to claim maximum points from their opening two games.
A 39-7 thrashing of Aviron Bayonnais in Llanelli kicked off their campaign before they held off Toyota Cheetahs to win 45-26 in Parma.
That defeat was a setback for the South African outfit, who won 21-16 at Section Paloise in their first ever EPCR Challenge Cup game, leaving them fifth in the standings.
Toyota Cheetahs have been out of action since Round 2, while Scarlets have won twice in three United Rugby Championship games, picking up back-to-back victories in their most recent clashes.
The game at Parc y Scarlets kicks off at 20:00 (UK & Irish time) and coverage is provided by S4C, SuperSport and FloRugby.
Guess who’s back…
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) January 9, 2023
Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel: “We have now won four of the last five games going back into Europe. The Cheetahs is another massive game for us with us topping the pool.”
- Scarlets have made more metres (1,169) and clean breaks (25) than any other club to date.
- Scrum-half Dane Blacker has forced a competition-high four pressure errors from his kicks.
- Sam Costelow was 100% off the tee in Round 2, landing six conversions and one penalty in the win over Toyota Cheetahs.
- Kasende Kapepula beat the most defenders in Round 2 (8). He also made two clean breaks, won two turnovers and scored a try.
- The Cheetahs have scored more tries on the sixth phase or later than any other team to date (4).
- The Cheetahs have won more positive outcomes (turnovers or penalties) from rucks than any other team. They have also conceded the most penalties at rucks (6).
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A 64th minute Leigh Halfpenny penalty was the deciding factor as Scarlets secured a 20-17 victory over Toyota Cheetahs in Pool B of the EPCR Challenge Cup on Friday night – earning a place in the Round of 16 in the process.
Steff Evans crossed the whitewash in the first period for the hosts, who went into the interval leading 10-3, before Johnny McNicholl dotted down in the second half to level proceedings at 17-17.
Toyota Cheetahs, who trailed at the break, did take the lead in the second half thanks to tries from Louis Westhuizen and Daniel Kapepula, but it was Halfpenny’s kick midway through the second period that decided the contest.
⚡️ @Scarlets_Rugby strike first ⚡️
A perfect grubber that floats into Steff Evans’ hands 👌
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) January 13, 2023
Halfpenny notched the first points of the evening, kicking a penalty on 10 minutes before a moment of brilliance from Scarlets’ Rhys Patchell.
The fly-half delivered a tantilising grubber kick through the Toyota Cheetahs defensive line and into the path of the onrushing Evans who scampered home for the score.
A Siya Masuku penalty for the visiting South Africans reduced the deficit to seven heading into the break – a late yellow card for Scarlets’ Carwyn Tuipulotu giving Toyota Cheetah an advantage early in the second half.
They duly delivered with two early tries. Firstly, Westhuizen went to work on the back of a Toyota Cheetahs’ rolling maul, breaking away to cross just three minutes after the interval.
Then, Kapepula breached the Scarlets ranks with a dazzling breakaway to give the visitors a 17-10 lead.
The Welsh region responded in kind, wing Johnny McNicholl crossing after some quick hands shifted the ball to the right flank.
Scarlets held on for a third straight win in Pool B and left Toyota Cheetahs with their knockout stage hopes hanging in the balance after just one win so far.
The South African side host Section Paloise in their final Pool B encounter, while Scarlets visit Aviron Bayonnais in their final pool match-up.