The Scarlets delivered an effective display against the Toyota Cheetahs in Llanelli on Sunday for a 43-21 victory, while Conference B log-leaders and competition pace-setters, Leinster, outplayed the Isuzu Southern Kings 59-19 in Dublin on Friday.
The Toyota Cheetahs were forced to play catch-up rugby early on against the Scarlets as their porous defence saw them trailing 28-0 in the 19th minute, while the opposition were high on confidence with the bonus point sealed.
Former Toyota Cheetahs looseforward Uzair Cassiem made a strong statement for the Scarlets in the second minute as he gathered a challenging pass to touch down, while the team’s hard-running combined with their skilful attack and solid support play saw them score three more tries in the first quarter.
Franco Smith’s charges tightened up their defence later in the half and showed their intent on attack, and this paid off as Benhard Janse van Rensburg ran a good angle to score in the 28th minute, while the Scarlets were down to 14 men due to an infringement in a ruck.
Rabz Maxwane - who entered the round as the top try-scorer in the competition - added their second try in the 38th minute after gathering the ball following some skilful kicking by Abongile Nonkontwana to reduce the deficit to 28-14 going into halftime.
The Scarlets built on their solid form in the second half, as they crossed the tryline for the fifth time in the 43rd minute from effective forward play, and they added their sixth in the 68th minute from a well-timed intercept, to add to an earlier penalty goal.
The Toyota Cheetahs, in turn, only managed to score one try in the second half compliments of Gerhard Olivier, who supported a good line break by Tian Schoeman.
This forced them to settle for the 43-21 defeat. In Dublin, Leinster overcame an early challenge by the Isuzu Southern Kings to run in an impressive nine tries for a convincing 59-19 victory.
The opening 30 minutes of the clash was a true battle as both sides threatened on attack with their good phase-play and timely defensive breaks. Leinster struck first with a converted try, but back to-back tries by Bjorn Basson and Sarel Pretorius pushed the Isuzu Southern Kings 12-7 ahead in the 19th minute.
This, however, was the only stage of the match in which the visitors held the lead, as Leinster retained their composure and hammered away at the defence, while they did well to capitalise on their try-scoring chances. These skills saw them add three more tries in the first half, which sealed their bonus point, and allowed them to enter the break 24-12 ahead.
The Isuzu Southern Kings reduced the deficit to 24-19 two minutes into the second half as Ulrich Beyers navigated his way to the tryline after receiving a well-timed pass in space, but the team were unable to add to their score as Leinster dominated proceedings for the rest of the match.
Such was the high quality of Leinster’s finishing, they crossed the tryline five times in the second half, which allowed them to take their tally for the match to nine, which strengthened their position as the Conference B log-leaders.
In the other matches, the Glasgow Warriors registered a comprehensive 43-17 win against Connacht at home, Ospreys went down 19-13 against Munster in Swansea, Benetton outplayed the Dragons 57-7 in Treviso, the Cardiff Blues pipped Edinburgh 19-17 at BT Murrayfield, and Ulster overpowered Zebre 54-7 in Belfast.
Scarlets 43 (28) Toyota Cheetahs 21 (14)
Scarlets - Tries: Uzair Cassiem, Johnny McNicholl, Kieron Fonotia, Josh Macleod, Wyn Jones, Paul Asquith. Conversions: Dan Jones (1), Leigh Halfpenny (4). Penalty Goal: Leigh Halfpenny.
Toyota Cheetahs - Tries: Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Rabz Maxwane, Gerhard Olivier. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (3).
Leinster 59 (24) Isuzu Southern Kings 19 (12)
Leinster – Tries: Noel Reid (2), Ed Byrne (2), Barry Daly, Andrew Porter, Max Deegan, Patrick Patterson and Rory O’Loughlin. Conversions: Ross Byrne (7).
Isuzu Southern Kings - Tries: Bjorn Basson, Sarel Pretorius, Ulrich Beyers. Conversions: Bader Pretorius (2).