Vaea Fifita red card costly for Scarlets as Cardiff win in Llanelli
A moment of madness from Scarlets flanker Vaea Fifita helped Cardiff see out a morale-boosting 16-10 win in Llanelli after a week which saw some of their players facing an internal investigation over an incident in a local pub.
Despite being behind with five minutes to go, the Scarlets had their visitors firmly under the cosh and looked sure-fire winners until Fifita was red-carded for a dangerous clearout on Shane Lewis-Hughes to end any hope of a turnaround.
Tomos Williams scored Cardiff’s try, with Jarrod Evans converting and adding three penalties.
Johnny McNicholl accounted for the Scarlets’ only touchdown, while Leigh Halfpenny kicked five points.
A penalty from Evans gave Cardiff an early lead before they suffered an injury setback when centre Rey Lee-Lo was helped off in a dazed state following his attempt to tackle Jonathan Davies.
The penalty from Evans was the only score of a turgid first quarter as two sides lacking in confidence produced an unedifying spectacle.
Cardiff provided the only moment of spark in that opening period when Uilisi Halaholo ran powerfully down the right flank to bump off a few tackles, but the move came to an abrupt halt when Lopeti Timani knocked on.
Halfpenny put his side on the scoreboard with a penalty before Cardiff scored the first try after 25 minutes.
Williams and Rhys Carre combined effectively to create the opportunity for the former to cross, with Evans on target from the tee.
Head of steam
The Scarlets looked to have responded when a long pass from Sam Costelow gave Corey Baldwin the chance to brush aside a weak tackle from Halaholo and race over, but TMO replays showed the pass was forward.
The hosts continued to have the better of territory and possession and they should have been rewarded, but Halfpenny’s penalty attempt rebounded back off a post to leave Cardiff with a 10-3 interval lead.
After the restart, two penalties from Evans extended that advantage before the Scarlets replaced five in one swoop in an attempt to reverse their fortunes.
Inspired by the efforts of number eight Sione Kalamafoni, the Scarlets pack built up a head of steam and, when Cardiff replacement Kirby Myhill was sin-binned for repeated team infringements with 15 minutes remaining, the hosts had their opportunity.
They battered the Cardiff line, but heroic defence kept them out for a time before superior numbers told, with Halfpenny sending McNicholl over in the corner.
Halfpenny’s superb touchline conversion made it a one-score game before Myhill returned, but Cardiff went back to 14 when Theo Cabango was yellow-carded for a deliberate offside.
The visitors looked in desperate trouble until Fifita’s dismissal spared them a late defeat.
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