Rob Howley will learn on Monday whether his time in charge of the Wales team continues to be dogged by injury. With fewer than eight weeks to go before the start of the Six Nations, Howley may have lost his first choice fly-half, Rhys Priestland, and flanker, Aaron Shingler.
Priestland damaged his achilles tendon stumbling into a tackle early in the second half and was carried off on a stretcher. He later sat in the stand wearing a protective boot. "He has got an achilles injury. We won't know the extent of that until he has a scan. But it didn't look good," said Easterby in a judgment he later applied to Shingler. The flanker suffered from the reoccurrence of an old groin injury.
After losing 11 squad players during the autumn internationals, when Wales lost all four Tests while stumbling to ninth seed in the world pecking order, Easterby's words will compound Howley's problems as he takes over from Warren Gatland before Wales attempt to defend their championship, starting against Ireland in Cardiff.
Wales lost to Argentina and Samoa under Howley and New Zealand and Australia during Gatland's brief return from his Lions duties. Key men such as Adam Jones and Dan Lydiate missed all four games and Howley already has worries about Jamie Roberts (elbow), the man-of-the-series Leigh Halfpenny (neck), Alun Wyn Jones (shoulder) and Ian Evans (knee).
The loss of Priestland would be particularly damaging as the fly-half had only recently returned to the kind of form that helped Wales to a World Cup semi-final and last spring's Grand Slam. On Saturday, when six internationals returned to Scarlets' ranks, there were signs of continuing adventure, even if his side were on their way out of the well before the injury.
By then the boot of Gareth Steenson and some sloppy midfield defending had sent Exeter on their way to their first win in the Heineken Cup after a late defeat by Leinster in Dublin and a more painful loss to Clermont Auvergne in Devon. In fact, both Scarlets and Exeter went into Saturday's match needing a bonus-point victory to have any chance of getting beyond the pool stages.
Maybe because of those pressures, or possibly the cold that got worse as the game progressed, they served up an error-strewn game, as the Exeter coach freely admitted. "It wasn't the greatest game of rugby, but I think we did enough to win the arm wrestle," Rob Baxter said. "We wanted to come into the competition giving a good account of ourselves. Ultimately this [the Heineken Cup] is a big learning curve as a club."
Scarlets Newton; L Williams, J Davies (capt), S Williams, Fenby; Priestland (A Thomas 48), A Davies (Noyle 62); John (Hopkins 79), Rees (Owens 52), Lee (Adriaanse 13), Earle (Timami 52), Kelly, Shingler (Snyman 67), Edwards, Murphy.
Try Penalty Con A Thomas Pens Priestland 2, A Thomas.
Exeter: Arscott; Camacho, Naqelevuki (Mieres, 75), Shoemark, Jess; Steenson, H Thomas (Barrett, 13); Sturgess (Moon, 52), Alcott (Clark, 55), Tui (Rimmer, 57), Hayes (capt), Welch (Mumm 55), Johnson (Muldowney, 75), Scaysbrook, Baxter.
Try H Thomas Con Steenson Pens Steenson 5. Sin-bin Moon, 64
Referee Mathieu Raynal (Fr) Attendance 7,512
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