It’s top of Conference B against bottom of Conference A as Scarlets welcome Ospreys to Llanelli flying high in the Guinness PRO14.
Out of form in domestic action, with just two wins from ten, Ospreys have been building momentum in Europe as they lie second in Pool 2 of the Champions Cup – but can they transfer their form into the league?
What’s at stake? Asides from Welsh bragging rights, Scarlets need a win to guarantee staying top of Conference B with Leinster hot on their tail, while Ospreys know a bonus point win could see them off the bottom of Conference A.
The visitors will hope their historical record of 18 wins to Scarlets’ 10 in their Guinness PRO14 head-to-head will weigh heavy on the minds of their hosts.
Team news (Scarlets): Hadleigh Parkes comes back into the centres to face Ospreys as Wayne Pivac shuffles his cards from last week’s European victory.
John Barclay also returns to the back row, with Tadhg Beirne moving into the second row as a result and Rhys Patchell comes back into the fray with a place on the bench.
Team news (Ospreys): Not tempted to put Rhys Webb and Dan Bigger in for the big regional derby, Steve Tandy keeps the Welsh international duo on the bench as Sam Davies and Tom Habberfield occupy the half-back positions.
Bradley Davies and Alun Wyn Jones form the ever-reliable second row pairing, with the Ospreys back row also having a familiar feel to it.
Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy said: “We’ve seen the best of the Ospreys in the Champions Cup this season but we have to forget about that competition now and focus firmly on improving our position in the Guinness PRO14.
“Scarlets and Dragons away then the Cardiff Blues home at the start of 2018 is a tough schedule that will test us but we know that we’ve got to keep rising to the challenge.
“These games are always great occasions with big crowds, the kind of games that we all love as players, coaches and supporters. It’s important for us to use the momentum we’ve started building and the energy that comes with these derby matches to drive us on.”
Scott Williams will be on show for Scarlets against the region he will play for next season – how the centre deals with the situation could have an affect on the final outcome.
Key battle: The half-backs could prove crucial in deciding the outcome of this encounter Tom Habberfield and Sam Davies going up against Dan Jones and Gareth Davies.
Ospreys have firepower on the bench in the form of Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar, but will they be called upon or will Steve Tandy’s chosen duo get the job done.
Key stat: Scarlets have won their last 14 at Parc y Scarlets in the Guinness PRO14, without defeat since the visit of Munster at the start of last season.
Did you know? Ospreys’ most recent victory at Parc y Scarlets was 27-26 on Boxing Day 2015
Scarlets: L Halfpenny, J McNicholl, H Parkes, S Williams, S Evans, D Jones, G Davies, R Evans, K Owens, W Kruger, T Beirne, D Bulbring, A Shingler, J Davies, J Barclay
Replacements: R Elias, W Jones, S Gardiner, S Cummins, J Macleod, A Davies, R Patchell, P Asquith
Ospreys: D Evans, B John, K Fonotia, O Watkin, J Hassler, S Davies, T Habberfield, N Smith, S Baldwin, D Arhip, B Davies, A Wyn Jones, D Lydiate, J Tipuric, O Cracknell
Replacements: S Otten, P James, M Fia, A Beard, R McCusker, R Webb, D Biggar, A Beck
Match officials – referee: Ian Davies
AR1: Ben Whitehouse
AR2: Craig Evans
TMO: Tim Hayes
TV: S4C 5.15pm/Sky Sports Action 5.15pm
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie
Josh Macleod’s dramatic last-gasp score sent Scarlets back to the top of their Guinness PRO14 conference with a hard-fought Welsh derby victory over Ospreys.
Needing a try to win the match, a kick over the top fell perfectly to the replacement who gleefully charged over the line in a sensational finale for the sold-out Parc y Scarlets crowd.
The champions had to do it with 14 men too, with Steff Evans sent off for a tackle in the air after he had scored what had been the game’s only try.
Ospreys, bottom of Conference A, had threatened to upset the formbook, but three Sam Davies penalties were not quite enough to pick up a third win of the Guinness PRO14 season.
The persistent rain made it difficult for either side to play running rugby as the scoreboard was unmoved in the early stages, despite Leigh Halfpenny’s best efforts from the tee.
But Scarlets did take the lead with some neat work, first forcing their visitors to knock-on in their own in-goal area for a five-metre scrum.
From there they made the pressure count, the ball falling loose at the base of the scrum to allow scrum-half Gareth Davies to find Evans to weave his way over the line for the first points.
It seemed the score would remain that way to the break, but Sam Davies got his side back in contention with a penalty, the first successful kick of the match to narrow the gap to two points.
By that time Scarlets had seen their numbers diminish, try-scorer Evans going for a high-ball but colliding with counterpart Ben John in the air to find himself sent-off.
With numerical advantage, Ospreys started on the front foot in the second half and took the lead for the first time in the match with 51 minutes on the clock, Davies kicking his second penalty of the contest for a 6-5 scoreline.
From attack came very important defence for the side bottom of Conference A of the Guinness PRO14, but standing firm and keeping Scarlets at bay seemed to give the visiting side lots of confidence.
That was rewarded with three more points, again from Davies, with Justin Tipuric the man to thank after isolating the home defence, the gap now extended to four, crucial points heading into the last 20 minutes.
That was how it stayed heading into the final ten minutes, with Scarlets pulling the rabbit out of the hat with Macleod’s late try, duly converted by Halfpenny to take the Welsh outfit back above Leinster in Conference B.