Round 10 kicks off on Friday night with a sumptuous looking Welsh derby in Cardiff, as both Cardiff Blues and Scarlets aim to gain all-important points in the ultra-competitive Conference B.
Only seven points split the top six sides in the conference while the two Welsh outfits are tantalisingly poised with Blues fifth and Friday’s visitors third.
The hosts will be looking to achieve a hat-trick of Welsh derby wins with a fifth consecutive Guinness PRO14 triumph but their opponents have only lost once in their last four matches in all competitions.
Nick Williams returns to the No.8 jersey as John Mulvihill has reshuffled his Blues pack with five changes, which include Rhys Gill and Scott Andrews coming into the front row and Filo Paulo stepping into the second row.
Scarlets, meanwhile, have made three changes with Werner Kruger replacing Samson Lee at tighthead prop, Fijian international Tevita Ratuva coming in at lock and Uzair Cassiem starting at No.8.
Kick-off: Cardiff Arms Park | KO 19:35, Friday 3 January
How to watch: Live on Premier Sports 2, eir Sport 2, DAZN, pro14.tv
Players to watch out for: Owen Lane (Cardiff Blues), Angus O’Brien (Scarlets)
Lane starred as he gained 85 metres and delivered 12 carries in his side’s narrow Boxing Day win over the Dragons and the Blues will be hoping for more of the same.
Scarlets were rampant last time out against Ospreys and O’Brien pulled the strings, as well as delivering with his boot, in a fine display of creativity.
Key stat: Scarlets have won just once away from home in the Guinness PRO14 in their last 12 trips: 25-21 at Glasgow on 4 October.
Cardiff Blues: Hallam Amos, Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Ben Thomas, Josh Adams, Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams, Rhys Gill, Liam Belcher, Scott Andrews, Filo Paulo, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi (c), Will Boyde, Nick Williams
Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Corey Domachowski, Keiron Assiratti, James Ratti, Olly Robinson, Lloyd Williams, Jason Tovey, Matthew Morgan
Scarlets: Leigh Halfpenny, Ryan Conbeer, Steff Hughes, Hadleigh Parkes, Steff Evans, Angus O’Brien, Gareth Davies, Wyn Jones, Ken Owens (c), Werner Kruger, Jake Ball, Tevita Ratuva, Aaron Shingler, Josh Macleod, Uzair Cassiem
Replacements: Phil Price, Ryan Elias, Samson Lee, Sam Lousi, Blade Thomson, Kieran Hardy, Ryan Lamb, Paul Asquith
Scarlets produced a battling performance to edge Welsh rivals Cardiff Blues on their own turf and leapfrog Munster – who lost at Ulster – at the top of the Conference B table.
The two sides were separated by only four points before the start of play, but a solitary try from Gareth Davies, and 11 points from Leigh Halfpenny’s boot, proved enough at Arms Park.
Blues were handed the first opportunity to get on the scoreboard, but Jarrod Evans kicked wide of the sticks early on.
Scarlets’ Halfpenny made no mistake with his first opportunity however, duly nudging the visitors in front in the eighth minute.
Halfpenny doubled Scarlets’ advantage with his boot after an infringement at the lineout, but Blues responded with a period of sustained pressure and resolute defending from Brad Mooar’s men proved just enough to deny them an opening try.
But John Mulvihill’s men kept plugging away and were rewarded in the 24th minute when Owen Lane finished off a brilliant kick-and-chase effort, which Evans duly converted to put the home side in front.
Scarlets responded immediately though, as Davies expertly intercepted an Evans pass before evading the entire Blues defence to dot down and restore the 2016/17 champions’ lead.
Halfpenny stretched Scarlets’ advantage with three points in the dying moments of the first period, but Blues were first to strike in the second 40 as Josh Adams went over to reduce their deficit to 16-14 with 15 minutes remaining.
As the clock ticked down, Blues enjoyed plenty of possession, but Scarlets held firm to notch their seventh win of the season despite not scoring in the second half.
Steff Evans was great in attack and Leigh Halfpenny’s boot was invaluable, but 24-year-old Ratuva stood up to be counted in a tightly-fought encounter.
Contributing at both ends of the pitch, the Fiji international was outstanding in defence and with the ball in hand, helping his side to a crucial victory.
Owen Lane’s first-half try deserves a mention for a perfectly-executed kick-and-chase after Hallam Amos’ outrageous offload, but Gareth Davies’ reply moments later was a glorious solo effort.
The 29-year-old tracked Evans’ sloppy pass before showcasing his burning pace to beat the Blues defence and provide Scarlets with the perfect response to going behind.