With only a point separating the two sides, Ulster prepare to take on the Scarlets in the Guinness PRO14’s Conference B.
Both sides are on the hunt for Leinster’s crown and will be looking to take maximum points as from the clash in order to make up ground on the defending champions.
Ulster come into the tie off the back of successive Guinness PRO14 victories while Scarlets will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to Edinburgh earlier this month.
What’s at stake?
For Scarlets it will be about avenging their narrow opening day defeat to the Ulstermen.
The Irish side took the previous tie 15-13 courtesy of five John Cooney penalties, so it might be in the best interest of the Scarlets players to stay clear of the referee’s radar.
Ulster will be hoping to make it a Guinness PRO14 double over their rivals, keeping a keen eye on Leinster’s tie with Ospreys in the hope that the Conference B leaders will slip up.
Team news (Scarlets): The Welsh side will be without prop Samson Lee and back-rower Blade Thomson but will be buoyed by the return of Tom Prydie as he comes into the side for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury against Ospreys.
Scarlets will also be without back-rower Josh Macleod, who is ruled out with a fractured foot, but flanker Lewis Rawlins is fit again after lay-offs and named on the bench.
Will Boyde will captain the side while scrum-half Kieran Hardy and hooker Marc Jones start their first games of the season.
Team news (Ulster): Louis Ludik will start the game at 13 to make his first appearance since suffering a hamstring injury earlier in May.
James Hume is one of four academy players in the starting XV and will partner Ludik in midfield.
Recent signing Ian Nagle could also make his debut from the bench, while Darren Cave would mark his return from injury if called upon.
Talking points: Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac said: “Ulster don’t lose too many (to Ireland). We played them in the international window at home last year. After a slow start we played very well.
“Our focus now is on ourselves, it’s really about spending as much time focusing on our game and being as accurate as we can.
“We weren’t (accurate) against Edinburgh and we were very disappointed about that as a squad and as a management group. We know that we are better than that performance. We have to keep working really hard through this period.”
Key battle: Johnny McNicholl vs Dave Shanahan
Johnny McNicholl is the Scarlets top scorer in the Guinness PRO14 this season with four tries, likewise Dave Shanahan for Ulster with three to his name.
With only one try scored between the two sides last time they faced one another, captains and fans could be looking at their top scorers to do the business under the posts in order to secure victory.
Key stat: Scarlets are unbeaten in their last 25 Championship encounters at Parc y Scarlets, only Leinster have had two longer home unbeaten runs in the history of the tournament – 26 and 29 games.
Did you know? The last five fixtures between the two sides have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Ulster’s most recent victory at Parc y Scarlets was in December 2012.
Scarlets: Johnny McNicholl, Tom Prydie, Kieron Fonotia, Paul Asquith, Ioan Nicholas, Dan Jones, Kieran Hardy, Phil Price, Marc Jones, Werner Kruger, Steve Cummins, David Bulbring, Ed Kennedy, Will Boyde (c), Uzair Cassiem
Replacements: Daf Hughes, Dylan Evans, Simon Gardiner, Lewis Rawlins, Dan Davis, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Clayton Blommetjies, Morgan Williams
Ulster: Michael Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, Louis Ludik, James Hume, Henry Speight, Billy Burns, David Shanahan; Eric O’Sullivan, Adam McBurney, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor (c), Kieran Treadwell, Marcell Coetzee, Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney.
Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Ian Nagle, Greg Jones, Jonny Stewart, Darren Cave, Angus Kernohan.
TV: At Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli, 7.35pm. Live on Premier Sports, eir Sports
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris, Aled Evans
Citing Commissioner: John Charles
TMO: Tim Hayes
Scarlets kept the heat on in Conference B as Tom Prydie’s second-half try helped earn a bonus-point win to overtake Ulster Rugby.
The Irish province came into the match a point above in the Conference and got the first score through Dave Shanahan before Werner Kruger struck back for Scarlets.
Kieran Hardy and Kieron Fonotia both touched down before the break and Prydie got a fourth on the hour-mark, effectively sealing the result.
Jonny Stewart got one back for Ulster late on but the west Walians move up to second in the Conference and now have top side Leinster in their sights.
With Scarlets missing a number of players on international duty Ulster may have fancied their chances of grabbing an away win in Wales and scored a lovely early try through Shanahan, with Henry Speight breaking away down the left.
The Welsh region weren’t on their haunches for long though and after Dan Jones had struck a penalty on 19 minutes Kruger bulldozed over from short distance to take the lead.
Ten minutes later more power work from the forwards opened up a gap for a smaller man and scrum-half Hardy stole in at the tryline.
Better was to come for the home fans before the break as No.8 Uzair Cassiem took a scything line at pace and burst into the 22, the ball then being passed out to centre Fonotia who delightfully stepped his way to the line.
Leading 22-7 at the interval the hosts sensed a fourth try and piled on the pressure early in the second period but couldn’t deliver the telling blow.
After 20 minutes of frustration though the breakthrough was found, a spell of pressure resulting in space out on the right and allowing wing Prydie to piledrive his way through the last tackle and into the corner.
Jones kicked the conversion and Ulster came again, a driving maul eventually seeing space created for replacement Jonny Stewart to get his side’s second try from short distance.
The men from Belfast fought hard for a third for the final ten minutes, but Scarlets held out to move up to 29 points after their sixth win of the season.
22 Nov 2018
22 Nov 2018