Glasgow Warriors host Scarlets at the Scotstoun in a crunch clash in the race for the top four as the Guinness PRO12 returns.
What’s at stake?
This match is seen by many as a crucial clash in the race for the all-important fourth place in the Guinness PRO12. Glasgow currently have the upper hand and sit fourth with 41 points from their 13 games. Scarlets trail their Scottish counterparts by a solitary point, despite having won one more game this season.
Team news (Glasgow Warriors)
Glasgow welcome back Rory Hughes, Scott Cummings and Richie Vernon to the starting line-up after all three recovered from long-term injuries.
Cummings and Vernon have both missed the first half of the season with shoulder injuries, while Hughes returns to the starting line-up following knee surgery in December.
Nick Grigg and Sam Johnson are the centre partnership having both penned new contract with the Warriors this week.
Scrum half Henry Pyrgos returns from international duty with Scotland to captain the side, with prop Alex Allan and blindside flanker Rob Harley also being recalled.
Team news (Scarlets)
Kiwi Johnny McNicholl returns to the side at full-back, alongside fellow back Hadleigh Parkes, who will skipper the side for the crucial clash.
McNicholl is joined in the back three by DTH van der Merwe and Tom Williams.
Tom Price and Lewis Rawlins combine for a new pairing in the second row, with Aaron Shingler, James Davies and Will Boyde in the back row.
Aled Davies has been released by Wales to take his place on the bench.
Glasgow will no doubt have been boosted by the return of several key players ahead of schedule, as well as other committing their long-term futures to the club.
However, both sides are weakened by the ongoing absentees on duty at the RBS 6 Nations, and the clash will be a test in squad depth of the sides.
This game is likely to be a tight and cagey affair, with much at stake and both team equally matched in terms of ability. Every point will count, and thus the kicking of fly-halves Rory Clegg and Jonathan Evans will be paramount to both sides as they look to steal a march on their opponents.
Both Henry Pyrgos and Rory Clegg are in the Guinness PRO12 top 20 kickers in terms of percentage of kicks landed. Pyrgos is 18th with 66.7% of successful attempts, with Clegg 20th on 62.3%. Scarlets’ only player in the top 20 is Rhys Patchell at seven, but he is absent on international duty.
Glasgow Warriors: Peter Murchie; Lee Jones, Nick Grigg, Sam Johnson, Rory Hughes; Henry Pyrgos, Rory Clegg; Alex Allan, Pat MacArthur, D’Arcey Rae; Brian Alainu’uese, Scott Cummings; Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro; Adam Ashe.
Replacements: James Malcolm, Jamie Bhatti, Sila Puafisi, Richie Vernon, Lewis Wynne, Grayson Hart, Hagen Schulte, Sean Lamont.
Scarlets: Johnny McNicholl; Tom Williams, Gareth Owen, Hadleigh Parkes [c], DTH van der Merwe; Dan Jones, Jonathan Evans; Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Werner Kruger; Tom Price, Lewis Rawlins, Aaron Shingler, James Davies; Will Boyde
Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Luke Garrett, Nicky Thomas, Tadhg Beirne, Joshua Macleod, Aled Davies, Aled Thomas, Steff Hughes
Did you know?
Glasgow Warriors only defeat in their last seven matches was 12-14 at home to Munster in the European Champions Cup on 14 January.
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 27, Warriors won 14, Scarlets won 13.
At Scotstoun, 7.35pm Live on Sky Sports
Referee: George Clancy (IRFU, 87th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Gary Conway (IRFU), Kevin White (SRU)
Citing Commissioner: John Montgomery (SRU)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)
James Davies starred with a man of the match performance as Scarlets recorded a hard-fought victory at Scotstoun to go above Glasgow Warriors in the Guinness PRO12 table.
A Pat MacArthur try had given Warriors the lead but scores from Tom Williams and Davies gave Scarlets a lead that they – with just one defeat in their last 11 – never looked like giving up.
Glasgow’s pack got on top of their counterparts in the opening scrum as Scarlets were penalised for collapsing and Rory Clegg knocked over the resulting penalty to open the scoring in the second minute.
But Dan Jones hit back before there were ten minutes on the clock with an effort from just inside the half-way line.
Nick Grigg almost made a telling break two minutes later, streaking up to the Scarlets 22 but the visitors turned it over and cleared their lines.
— Scarlets (@scarlets_rugby) February 10, 2017
Jones then went to the bin on the quarter-hour mark after he was adjudged to have taken Sam Johnson late when both going for a loose ball.
From the resulting lineout Warriors charged over and the TMO decided Pat MacArthur had grounded the ball at the bottom of the ruck – Clegg missing the conversion.
A man down, Scarlets enjoyed a spell of pressure inside the Warriors 22, coming from a Will Boyde break down the right.
And the try came soon after as Scarlets swiftly switched play from left to right, with Williams going in at the corner before converting himself to give his side the lead.
But the lead was short-lived as a driving maul rumbled into Scarlets territory and when the ball broke free, the Welsh side were penalised for a high tackle, with Clegg accurate from the tee to regain the lead for Warriors.
Scarlets hit back straight away, though, and the lead switched hands again as a Jones penalty put them two in front.
Two then became nine as a slight feint allowed Davies to finish in the right corner after phase after phase of powerful drives eventually led to the break out wide – Jones adding the extras to send Glasgow into the break trailing 20-11 at home.
— Glasgow Warriors 🏉 (@GlasgowWarriors) February 10, 2017
Neat hands from the Glasgow forwards looked to have given them a platform to build from early in the second period, but a steal from Davies allowed Scarlets to clear downfield from their own 22.
But Warriors did get on the board nine minutes into the half, with Clegg kicking a long-range effort of his own to give Glasgow some respite from Scarlets’ pressure.
The home side then exerted some pressure of their own, but after 14 phases a knock on put pay to their position in the Scarlets 22.
And when Grigg found himself offside in his own half Jones knocked over another penalty to re-establish their nine-point lead.
Huge thank you to those of you who made the journey! #inthepack
Diolch i’r rheini ohono chi a deithiodd. 👍
— Scarlets (@scarlets_rugby) February 10, 2017
Try as Glasgow might to string phases together and force their way back into the game, handling errors and turnovers were costing the home side dearly as the clock ticked ever closer to 80 minutes.
In the final ten minutes Warriors struggled to get out of their own half as the Scarlets defence, led by Davies, strangled the home side’s backs at every opportunity as Wayne Pivac’s side sealed the 12-point win to leapfrog their Scottish opponents in the league.