It’s the battle of the top two in Conference B this weekend, as Edinburgh travel to Llanelli to lock horns with Scarlets.
The two sides have identical records heading into Saturday’s showdown with the visitors leading the way by three points courtesy of additional bonus points, so this one promises to be a tight one, with neither side wanting to give an inch.
With no recent Guinness PRO14 action to speak of form goes out the window, with both sides looking to blow off the cobwebs with a victory to regain momentum
Richard Cockerill’s side won the reverse fixture convincingly earlier in the season, as they ran in seven tries in a 46-7 victory in the Scottish capital, but Scarlets are a much tougher side than the one that started the current campaign.
With the top three so tightly packed in Conference B, victory in this one could make all the difference when the Finals Series picture is decided come the end of the season.
With so much at stake, both sides will be determined not to give away cheap points, and the ability to stay disciplined throughout the 80 minutes could be the difference between victory and defeat.
How to watch: Live on eir Sport 2, Premier Sports 2, DAZN, pro14.tv
Players to watch out for: Duhan van der Merwe v Josh Macleod
They may not be facing up directly opposite each other in this one, but the clash in Llanelli will see two of the competition’s standout performers strutting their stuff on Saturday.
The Edinburgh wing has left many a defender for dead this season, with his fleet-footedness out by the sidelines proving to much for many a would-be tackler.
The South African has left 45 opponents in his wake in his dazzling performances throughout the Guinness PRO14 this season, scoring five tries in the process.
On the other side of the ball will be one of Scarlets’s main men, with Josh Macleod dominating the breakdown across the continent this campaign.
The 23-year-old leads the way by quite a margin in regards to turnovers this season, so the visitors will have to be on their guard to avoid any cheap relinquishing of possession.
They may have completely different skillsets on the rugby field, but either of these could prove to be the difference in this one.
Key stat: Scarlets are unbeaten at home so far this season, with Edinburgh being the last side to return home from Parc y Scarlets with a win last time they visited in April 2019.
Scarlets: Angus O’Brien, Corey Baldwin, Kieron Fonotia, Steff Hughes (CAPT), Steff Evans, Dan Jones, Kieran Hardy, Phil Price, Taylor Davies, Samson Lee, Lewis Rawlins, Sam Lousi, Aaron Shingler, Josh Macleod, Uzair Cassiem
Replacements: Dom Booth, Rob Evans, Werner Kruger,Tevita Ratuva, Dan Davis, Dane Blacker, Paul Asquith, Ryan Conbeer
Edinburgh: Damien Hoyland, Eroni Sau, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott, Duhan van der Merwe, Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos (CAPT); Pierre Schoeman, David Cherry, WP Nel, Lewis Carmichael, Grant Gilchrist, Nick Haining, Luke Crosbie, Viliame Mata
Replacements: Mike Willemse, Jamie Bhatti, Pietro Ceccarelli, Fraser McKenzie, John Barclay, Nic Groom, Simon Hickey, George Taylor
Edinburgh did the double over rivals Scarlets to return to the top of Conference B in the Guinness PRO14 courtesy of a 14-9 triumph in Llanelli.
It was not as convincing as their 46-7 victory over Scarlets in October but Edinburgh took their chances when they came and were outstanding in defence in a rain-affected match.
Duhan van der Merwe’s sixth-minute stunner got Edinburgh off the mark before assisting for Matt Scott’s score just before the break.
Scarlets were made to pay for their failure to turn pressure into tries as they dropped to third in the standings.
After a kick-tennis battle in the opening six minutes, van der Merwe made his mark with a scintillating run to open the scoring.
Flanker Nick Haining produced the first moment of quality with a basketball pass to Scott before van der Merwe weaved his way through four defenders to touch down for a stunning score. Jaco van der Walt added the extras.
Scarlets then opened their account on 11 minutes when David Cherry was caught offside and Dan Jones landed the resulting penalty to close the gap to 7-3.
This was how the scoreline stayed until the 36th minute when Jones dispatched another three points after Edinburgh were penalised for not rolling away.
Scarlets mounted sustained pressure in Edinburgh’s half for a large portion of the first period, choosing to pick and go in the atrocious conditions. But they failed to breach the away side’s stubborn defence.
And Brad Mooar’s side suffered a blow moments before the break. Van der Merwe broke through before releasing Scott for an easy run-in with van der Walt converting to put Edinburgh 14-6 ahead.
Despite the setback Scarlets started the second half brightly as a late Pierre Schoeman tackle allowed Jones to fire home his third penalty on 48 minutes.
Scarlets created a golden opportunity 10 minutes later after great defensive work earned them a scrum five metres out.
But Edinburgh once again held firm with Schoeman securing a crucial turnover.
The visitors were under plenty of pressure, but they continued to keep the men in red at bay with Viliame Mata central to their efforts.
With 11 minutes left, Edinburgh had the put in at a scrum close to their own try-line. Scarlets managed to overpower their opponents only for No.8 Uzair Cassiem to knock on as he looked to ground the ball.
It was a significant moment as Scarlets saw their unbeaten record which stretches back to April last year come to an end.
The Fiji international was at the heart of Edinburgh’s outstanding defensive effort, producing a couple of try-saving tackles.
Van der Merwe was another strong contender after his try and assist in the first half but Mata’s tireless work in torrid conditions saw him get the honours.
Heavy rain and swirling wind aren’t usually conditions for wingers but van der Merwe created a score seemingly out of nothing on six minutes.
After a superb pass by Haining, van der Merwe skipped away from two defenders before beating two more on his way over.