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italian job done as the scarlets get a win bonus.

Byline: rob lloyd Rugby correspondent robert.lloyd@walesonline.co.uk

12 benettonTRIES: M Ioane (2) CON: I McKinley 31 scarlets TRIES: J McNicholl, P Asquith, G Davies (2) CONS: L Halfpenny (4) PEN: Halfpenny THE Scarlets ensured their travel disruption to Italy didn't leave their European hopes grounded, claiming another crucial bonus-point win over Benetton to keep them firmly in the hunt for quarter-final qualification.

Wayne Pivac and his squad had seen their scheduled flight to Italy cancelled on Friday and they didn't arrive at their hotel in Treviso until late in the evening - hardly the ideal preparation for such a crucial Champions Cup tie. But in the end, that was as arduous as it got for the West Walians, who brushed aside a meek Benetton display to claim their first away win in the competition for three years.

You have got to go back to a memorable victory over Racing Metro in Paris in 2014 for the last time the Scarlets won an away game in Europe.

And after the events of seven days earlier in Llanelli, nobody could have predicted how comfortable this potential banana skin would have been.

The West Walians were 24-0 up at half-time thanks to tries from Johnny McNicholl, Paul Asquith and Gareth Davies and had the bonus-point in the bag within three minutes of the restart courtesy of that man Davies, who pounced for his fourth try in two games.

Pivac was then able to bring off key personnel with one eye on the festive derbies, knowing that Pool 5 has now become a threehorse race along with Bath and Toulon going into the new year.

Defence would have been at the top of the New Zealander's 'must do better' list in the wake of the Scarlets' great escape in Llanelli, when they needed two tries in the final four minutes to snatch a 33-28 victory.

And it was clear from the early exchanges at a sun-kissed Stadio Monigo

that there was far more energy about the West Walians without the ball.

That allowed the poaching double act of James Davies and the outstanding Tadhg Beirne to become a menace at the breakdown, with Davies claiming a couple of key early turnovers.

With discipline letting the hosts down badly, the Scarlets dominated possession and territory and also varied their attacking game intelligently. A Leigh Halfpenny penalty set them on their way before the Wales full-back put a lover grubber through for his side's first try on 12 minutes.

Asquith gathered and showed good composure to off-load to McNicholl, with the Kiwi sweeping around and having the pace to outstretch the cover in a sprint down the touchline.

With Benetton reduced to 14 men following the sin-binning of prop Federico Zani, it got better quickly for the Scarlets with McNicholl and Asquith combining again, following a smart Scott Williams kick, for the Aussie to cross for try number two.

And an exemplary first-half showing was completed by scrum-half Davies, who underlined his try-scoring instinct by stepping over from a close-range scrum.

In total control at the turnaround, the message would have been to pick up the bonus-point score as quickly as possible.

Within three minutes of the restart it was in the bag.

Benetton were down to 14 again when wing Angelo Esposito was binned for a cynical foul and it was that man Davies who punished the Italians, sniping from close range for his fourth try in two games.

After that, the match lost all intensity and tempo with both benches emptied.

And even though Benetton claimed two late consolations from wing Monty Ioane, the Scarlets will be heading back on their flight home delighted with a professional job well done.

BENETTON: J Hayward; A Esposito, T Benvenuti, L Morisi, M Ioane; T Allan (repl I McKinley 45), T Tebaldi (repl E Gori 45); F Zani, L Bigi (repl T Baravalle 40), T Pasquali (repl C Traore 58) A Zanni, D Budd (capt), S Negri (repl; repl F Ruzza 45), B Steyn, N Manu (repl M Barbini 15) SCARLETS: L Halfpenny (repl H Parkes 65); J McNicholl, P Asquith, S Williams, S Evans; D Jones (repl S Hughes 53), G Davies (repl A Davies 50); R Evans (repl W Jones 60), K Owens (capt; repl R Elias 60), W Kruger (repl S Gardiner 57), S Cummins, D Bulbring, T Beirne (repl J Helps 72), W Boyde, James Davies (repl J Macleod 45) REFEREE: Romain Poite (France)

CAPTION(S):

Scott Williams makes a break for the Scarlets

Paul Asquith touches down for a Scarlets try

Scarlets wing Steff Evans takes on Luca Morisi PICTURES: Huw Evans
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 17, 2017
Words:772
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