Scarlets have never lost four in a row at Parc y Scarlets and head coach Wayne Pivac hopes the home crowd can help them avoid a piece of unwanted history on Saturday against Guinness PRO12 champions Connacht.
Scarlets have failed to register a single league point from any of their last four fixtures but have never lost four in a row at the venue since moving there in 2008.
Connacht are also pointless so far this season in defence of their crown but their last game against Zebre was called off at half-time.
And Pivac knows his side will need to be at their best to begin climbing the table after their sluggish start.
“Given where both sides are heading into this game, with both sides in the top six last season and Connacht of course going on to win the championship, we want to repeat the dose and be there towards the end of the season,” he said.
“Having said that, all we’re focusing on is the group we’ve got now and where we need to improve. We don’t have too much time to focus too much on what happened last year. For us it’s being the best we can be on a given day.
“It’ll be a great contest; you wouldn’t want to be the team that comes off second! This really is a big game for us.
“It’s good to be back at home here at the Parc and the boys are very much looking forward to it. Hopefully there’ll be a boisterous crowd here to lift the team and get a decent performance out of it.”
Pivac has made one change to the side that was defeated by Ulster last weekend.
The one change sees Aaron Shingler return to the starting line-up at blindside flanker with Lewis Rawlins moving to the replacements bench.
Connacht head coach Pat Lam has made six changes – Irish internationals Matt Healy, Kieran Marmion, Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux and Ultan Dillane are all brought in to the side.
Along with Roux, Jake Heenan makes a welcome return from injury and his first appearance of the season.
Dillane starts in the back row for the first time along with Heenan and captain John Muldoon.
Connacht have not won away at the Scarlets since 2004 but Lam is feeling positive.
“With more guys coming back from injury, it’s pleasing to be able to select a bit more experience in our side,” he said.
“Quinn (Roux) and Jake (Heenan) returning is obviously a boost and it helps drive more competition within the squad.
“Although we have never won at Parc y Scarlets before, we are really excited by the challenge to try and create a small bit of history.
“While both teams are obviously determined to get points on the table, our focus remains on the quality of our performance.”
Scarlets: Thomas; L.Williams, Jo.Davies, Parkes, Evans; Patchell, G.Davies; Jones, Owens [c], Kruger, Ball, Bulbring, Shingler, Ja.Davies, Barclay
Replacements: Elias, Garrett, Edwards, Rawlins, Allen, A.Davies, S.Williams, Boyde
Connacht: O’Halloran; Adeolokun, Aki, Griffin, Healy; Carty, Marmion; Buckley , McCartney, Bealham, Roux, Bealham, Dillane, Heenan, Muldoon
Replacements: Heffernan, Loughney, Cooney, Stevenson, McKeon, Blade, O’Leary, Kelleher
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 26, Scarlets won 17, Connacht won 8 and 1 game drawn.
At Parc y Scarlets, 7.35pm. Live on S4C and TG4
Referee: George Clancy (IRFU, 83rd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Keith Allen (SRU), Leighton Hodges (WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Ray Wilton (WRU)
TMO: Jim Yuille (SRU)
Liam Williams’ try double secured a 17-8 win for Scarlets as they earned a first Guinness PRO12 win of the season and condemned champions Connacht to 12th place.
Niyi Adeolokun’s first-half score had cancelled out Williams’ first converted try, before Jack Carty’s penalty gave Connacht a one-point half-time advantage.
But Wayne Pivac’s side looked a different animal after the second-half, piling the pressure on a resilient Connacht side who eventually crumpled when Williams grabbed his second before Rhys Patchell turned the screw with a drop goal.
Pat Lam’s side remain winless and welcome Edinburgh to the Sportsground next weekend while Scarlets travel to Italy to take on Benetton Treviso.
The two sides were inseparable for 20 minutes in a scrappy first-half, but it was one of the stars of Connacht’s title charge last year – Adeolokun – who broke the deadlock.
Connacht’s pack had been gradually getting the upper-hand and a strong scrum put Lam’s men in position, before slick hands from prop Denis Buckley sent Adeolokun haring over.
Carty missed the conversion and was off target again, before Scarlets fought back through Williams.
The initial impetus came from Aaron Shingler, the flanker collecting a wide pass and bursting through the Connacht defence.
When the ball was recycled, slick hands between brothers James and Jonathan Davies sent Williams over under the posts, which Patchell converted.
Scarlets were growing into the game, but Connacht were at their dogged best, captain John Muldoon intervened critically on 53 minutes with a goal-line turnover that relived vast amounts of pressure.
Ken Owens’ break looked potentially game-breaking and when the ball found Williams on the flank, one outcome looked likely, but he was denied by a stunning Tiernan O’Halloran cover-tackle.
Yet Pivac’s men continued to pile forward and despite heroic defence, the men from Galway could not escape their tryline.
Williams then made amends for missing out, with a textbook finish on 66 minutes on the touchline and Patchell found his kicking boots to convert superbly, taking the hosts 14-8 ahead with less than 15 minutes remaining.
An ever-more influential Patchell then thumped over a drop-goal to move Scarlets beyond a converted score.
27 Sep 2016
23 Sep 2016