Scarlets have the second longest unbeaten home run in Guinness PRO14 history but find themselves under pressure as they welcome Cardiff Blues to Parc y Scarlets on Saturday.
Wayne Pivac’s team have lost four in a row in all competitions and face a Blues side fresh from a derby success against the Dragons.
What’s at stake? Both conferences are tight at the moment with Cardiff Blues currently just outside the play-off spots in Conference A, while Scarlets are just inside in Conference B.
The win over the Dragons leaves the Blues fifth but just five points behind the Ospreys in the final play-off spot, while the Scarlets know that a defeat could see them drop as low as fifth in Conference B.
Team news (Scarlets): Injuries to Rhys Patchell and Jake Ball have further hit the Scarlets’ depth, but the return of Leigh Halfpenny is a boost for Pivac.
Hadleigh Parkes continues in the fly-half role while the only other change to the side that lost to the Ospreys is Josh Helps’ inclusion in the second row.
Team news (Cardiff Blues): John Mulvihill has made three changes to the team which beat the Dragons last time out as George Earle and Brad Thyer come into the pack.
The only other changes sees Lloyd Williams preferred to namesake Tomos at scrum-half as the Blues seek a first win over their regional rivals since 2016.
Key battle: Rob Evans v Dillon Lewis
A loosehead against a tighthead and a pair of Welsh internationals up against one another. Dillon Lewis has enjoyed a breakthrough year and looks one of the most well-rounded prop prospects in the Guinness PRO14 with his ability to cause havoc at the breakdown. At scrum-time at least on Saturday he will face Rob Evans, another who offers far more than just a set-piece presence. The scrum battle will be crucial but with these two, what they contribute in the loose could be just as important.
Key stat: The Scarlets are unbeaten in 26 home matches in the Guinness PRO14, a record only Leinster have bettered with 29 unbeaten between 2008 and 2011.
Did you know? Cardiff Blues were the last Welsh team to win at Parc y Scarlets, back in April 2016.
Scarlets: Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Prydie, Jonathan Davies, Kieron Fonotia, Johnny McNicholl, Hadleigh Parkes, Gareth Davies, Rob Evans, Ken Owens (c), Samson Lee, Josh Helps, David Bulbring, Ed Kennedy, James Davies, Will Boyde
Replacements: Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Werner Kruger, Tom Price, Dan Davis, Kieran Hardy, Dan Jones, Paul Asquith
Cardiff Blues: Dan Fish; Blaine Scully, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Garyn Smith; Gareth Anscombe, Lloyd Williams; Brad Thyer, Kristian Dacey (c), Dillon Lewis, George Earle, Seb Davies, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Nick Williams.
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Corey Domachowski, Dmitri Arhip, James Down, Olly Robinson, Tomos Williams, Steven Shingler, Matthew Morgan
TV: Parc y Scarlets, Saturday 5.15pm. Live on Premier Sports 1 & eir sport 2
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Craig Evans (WRU), Adam Jones (WRU)
TMO: Ian Davies (WRU)
Rey Lee-Lo scored two tries as Cardiff Blues ended Scarlets’ 27-month unbeaten home record in the Guinness PRO14 with a memorable derby-day victory.
Lloyd Williams dotted down in the tenth minute after an early Gareth Anscombe penalty, but the home side quickly hit back through a Johnny McNicholl try.
But Lee-Lo’s score just after the hour-mark, after some smart play by Willis Halaholo, changed the game and he added a second near full-time following an interception.
Gareth Anscombe added a bonus-point score at the death, helping the Blues move level on points with Ospreys in Conference A, while defeat for the Scarlets sees them drop to fourth in Conference B.
The day got off to a bad start for the hosts, who were hit with a major blow before kick-off when Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny was ruled out minutes before he was due to make his return from a seven-week absence.
With Rhys Patchell again out injured, Hadleigh Parkes got the nod at fly-half but it was his opposite number who made the early running.
Anscombe has been in fine form all season for the Blues and he got his side off to a strong start with a monstrous penalty inside three minutes.
The Blues continued to cause Scarlets all kinds of problems in the early stages and crossed for the game’s first try in the tenth minute.
Josh Turnbull won a turnover in Scarlets territory, before centre Lee-Lo surged past Jonathan Davies and linked with Blaine Scully.
The wing surged for the line but was caught by a recovering Davies before handing off for Williams to score.
Scarlets hit back straight away, as Will Boyde’s clever kick through was touched down by McNicholl.
That was remarkably the final score of the first half, despite both sides playing with a high intensity in an entertaining 40 minutes.
Scarlets started on the front foot at the beginning of the second half and almost pulled level seven minutes after the restart when Parkes send a looping pass out to Tom Prydie – but the wing bundled into touch by some last-gasp defending.
However, they came back and the killer try just after the hour mark when Willis Halaholo surged through midfield, handing off one tackle before slipping the ball inside to Lee-Lo, who outsprinted Jonathan Davies to touch down.
The centre added his second five minutes from time when he intercepted a pass and sprinted alone to score under the posts, before Anscombe finished it with a second interception.