Ospreys are a side reborn this campaign and will put their fast start to the test when they travel to Scarlets this weekend.
This clash of the Welsh regions has all the making of a classic as the pair lock horns at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday.
What’s at stake?
Both sides have looked pretty solid in their opening five fixtures as both Ospreys and Scarlets sit second in the respective conferences.
Ospreys have won their last two fixtures, beating Zebre and Benetton, with their only loss this season coming at Irish Independent Park in a 49-13 defeat against Munster.
Meanwhile 2017 champions Scarlets have three victories and two defeats from their opening five matches, sitting five points behind Conference B leaders Leinster.
A thrilling 23-21 home victory over Leinster, who downed Wayne Pivac’s men at the Aviva Stadium in May’s showpiece, has been the standout display from the region who will be looking to replicate that performance this weekend.
Team news (Scarlets):
Club captain Ken Owens returns to face Ospreys but Scarlets will be without Jonathan Davies despite his man-of-the-match display against Isuzu Southern Kings last weekend.
Kieron Fonotia will line-up against his old side, teaming up with Hadleigh Parkes in the Scarlets midfield but the side will be without Steff Evans for the clash.
Flanker Will Boyde returns from injury and there’s a place on the bench for Josh Macleod.
Team news (Ospreys):
It’s a special moment for Alun Wyn Jones who makes his 232nd appearance for Ospreys, equalling the all-time record currently held by Paul James.
Centre Cory Allen replaces Joe Thomas while James Hook and Sam Cross are in at full-back and flanker respectively.
Meanwhile the side are missing full-back Dan Evans and flanker Dan Lydiate through injury.
Ospreys head coach, Allen Clarke, said: “It’s our toughest test yet, a huge challenge for us given their recent success in this competition and in Europe, and their record at home.
“We know the level of performance required to get the right result and that has been our focus, respecting our opponent but believing in our ability as a squad.
“As a local derby it’s a showcase for players on the international front and a real opportunity for us to see exactly where we are at this stage of the season after a positive opening month.”
Scarlets head coach, Wayne Pivac said: “Ospreys are much improved on last year. They haven’t conceded a lot of tries, they’ve had a marked improvement defensively.
“They’ve got a strong forward pack, a lot of the game I guess will be centred around the collision area. We respect them. We know that regardless of what team goes on the teamsheet we’ll get a performance.
“We totally respect them, I love these games. It brings the best out of the players. National selection is just around the corner and everybody wants to win these derby games.
“They know our game inside out, makes for an interesting encounter. We think that if we get enough quality ball we’ll hopefully be able to test them.”
Key battle: Leigh Halfpenny v George North
An enthralling clash is set to unfold at Parc y Scarlets as these two Welsh wonders go head-to-head in south Wales.
Halfpenny has been ever reliable with the boot for Scarlets this campaign, kicking 29 points, the highest in the side.
Meanwhile it’s been a perfect return to the league for George North who has been putting on the show in the Guinness PRO14.
North has three tries to his name already, no player in the Ospreys side has more, and if he can keep up that kind of form on Saturday, the visitors could be looking at a fifth victory of the campaign.
Key fact: Ospreys haven’t won successive away fixtures in the Guinness PRO14 since March 2017.
Did you know? Scarlets have won their last nine fixtures against fellow Welsh regions in the Guinness PRO14.
Scarlets: Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Prydie, Kieron Fonotia, Hadleigh Parkes, Johnny McNicholl, Rhys Patchell, Gareth Davies, Wyn Jones, Ken Owens (C), Samson Lee, Jake Ball, David Bulbring, Ed Kennedy, Will Boyde, Blade Thomson
Replacements: Ryan Elias, Phil Price, Werner Kruger, Tom Price, Josh Macleod, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Angus O’Brien, Paul Asquith
Ospreys: James Hook, George North, Cory Allen, Owen Watkin, Luke Morgan, Sam Davies, Aled Davies, Nicky Smith, Scott Baldwin, Ma’afu Fia, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Cross, Justin Tipuric (C), James King
Replacements: Scott Otten, Rhodri Jones, Tom Botha, Adam Beard, Olly Cracknell, Matthew Aubrey, Joe Thomas, Hanno Dirksen
TV: At Parc y Scarlets, 3pm on Premier Sports and eir Sport
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Adam Jones, Simon Rees (WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Jeff Mark (WRU)
TMO: Tim Hayes (WRU)
Rhys Patchell’s second-half try earned victory for Scarlets in an inter-pro arm-wrestle with Ospreys at Parc Y Scarlets.
Johnny McNicholl handed the home side an early lead but tries from Cory Allen and George North helped the visitors back into it.
Despite remaining dominant, it took nearly an hour for Scarlets to break through and Patchell provided the eventual winning try.
The win means Ospreys haven’t won in Llanelli since Boxing Day 2015 and means Scarlets still haven’t been beaten in Guinness PRO14 in 24 home games.
After cagey opening stages, former Osprey Kieron Fonotia made a powerful surge over the gain line and popped an inside ball for McNicholl to draw first blood.
The visitors earned plenty of territory but severely lacked cutting edge in the 22, with Rhys Patchell holding Luke Morgan up close to the line after a fine offload on the far side by Sam Davies.
Ospreys kept up the pressure and crossed the whitewash three minutes later, recycling the ball from the left to right-hand side where Cory Allen cut an inside line and powered over.
Davies completed the conversion and with Patchell substituted after a concussion, the momentum of the contest shifted.
Another flowing move from left to right saw Ospreys surged into the lead, North showing every ounce of his strength to hand off his man and dot down in the far corner.
But the Scarlets assumed almost total control at the start of the second half, going through phase play remorselessly and grinding down the Ospreys defence with patient offense.
Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes had the first claim for a try, barrelling over under the posts but the TMO spotted a knock-on earlier in the move.
Led by Alun Wyn Jones, the visitors largely held firm although Luke Morgan was very nearly punished for deliberately knocking on a pass from Patchell who had recovered from his earlier HIA.
Scarlets broke through in the 58th minute, spinning the ball wide and Patchell mounting an ambitious carry that was enough for him to cross.
Leigh Halfpenny remained perfect from the tee to make it 20-12, having converted McNicholl’s early score and added a penalty for good measure.
Luke Morgan, who has been in fine form since his transition from the sevens programme over the summer, hit back on the hour mark with a superb score.
James Hook led the kick-chase from full-back and after the ball was cycled out to the left, Justin Tipuric maintained momentum and offloaded to Morgan who brushed off his tackler to dot down in the corner.
The onslaught resumed and Scarlets found space but Will Boyde’s crucial pass drifted behind Josh McLeod and into touch.
Scarlets kept the ball stoically and avoided turnovers, climbing to second in Conference B with the rousing triumph.