Watkins stakes international claim

Llanelli Scarlets 37 - Edinburgh 16
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The Independent Online

The Scarlets centre Matthew Watkins turned on the style in front of the Wales coach Mike Ruddock on Saturday to put his hand up for a Test place for the autumn internationals.

Watkins scored a try and had a hand in two others as the Scarlets defeated a brave but outclassed Edinburgh side to get their Celtic League campaign back on track. The former Newport centre is in the mix to add to his six Test caps as Ruddock weighs up his options in the absence of Iestyn Harris, who has returned to rugby league, and his performance was all class.

It was the kind of catalyst that the Scarlets coach Gareth Jenkins was looking for after depressing defeats against the Neath-Swansea Ospreys and the Newport-Gwent Dragons.

"I'm reasonably pleased with the performance," he said. "We tried to play rugby, scored five tries and possibly resurrected ourselves after some of the negative emotions of the past few days. After the hard rugby of the all-Welsh derbies, it was good to throw the ball around and the boys are feeling very good at the moment."

Watkins brought the Stradey Park crowd to their feet with a superb break in the fifth minute to set up the winger Tal Selley for an early try, before scoring himself and then chipping the ball through for the fly-half Arwel Thomas to take the Scarlets' lead to 22-3 after barely 20 minutes.

Edinburgh, led by the irrepressible former All Black captain Todd Blackadder, were never too far off the pace and it took two late tries from the home side to stretch the scoreline.

The trusty boot of Chris Paterson and a try to the full-back Hugo Southwell brought the Scottish side back into contention in the second half, but the Scarlets gained late scores from the veteran centre Mark Taylor and the winger Garan Evans to give them a deserved 21-point victory.

Scarlets: Tries Selley, Watkins, A Thomas, Taylor, Evans; Conversions A Thomas 2, Bowen; Penalties A Thomas, Bowen. Edinburgh: Try Southwell; Conversion Paterson; Penalties Paterson 3.

Scarlets: B Davies; G Evans, M Watkins, M Taylor, T Selley; A Thomas (G Bowen, 40), M Phillips (R Jones, 73); I Thomas, M Rees, J Davies (J Thiel, 69), V Cooper (C Wyatt, 13-26 & 43-56), A Jones, S Easterby (capt), A Powell, G Thomas.

Edinburgh: H Southwell; S Webster (M Pyke, 40), M Di Rollo, C Joiner, C Paterson; B Laney (D Lee, 45), M Blair; A Jacobsen, A Kelly (D Hall, 46), J Brannigan, N Hines, A Kellock, T Blackadder (capt), S Cross, A Hogg.

Referee: D Courtney (Ireland)