The second game at Judgement Day on Saturday sees the Scarlets take on the Newport Gwent Dragons at Principality Stadium at 5.15pm as fourth takes on tenth.
What’s at stake? This is a huge game for the Scarlets who currently sit in the play-off places thanks to one extra win compared to Ulster. With three games remaining it looks like a battle between the Ospreys, Ulster and the Scarlets for two Guinness PRO12 play-off spots. For the Dragons a win could see them overtake Edinburgh and move into ninth.
Team news (Newport Gwent Dragons): Kingsley Jones has made five changes to his Dragons side for this encounter following last week’s loss to Zebre. Four of those changes come in the pack, with two new faces in the props as Sam Hobbs and Lloyd Fairbrother start. Matthew Screech comes into the second row while Nic Cudd gets the nod in the back row. The only other change sees Adam Warren come into the side on the wing.
Team news (Scarlets): Wayne Pivac has made three changes to the team which saw off Treviso last weekend with Liam Williams back on the wing in place of DTH van der Merwe who drops to the bench. Fellow Welsh international Jonathan Davies starts at outside centre, while in the pack Tom Price comes in for the injured Aaron Shingler. That means a change of position for Tadhg Beirne, who switches into the back row with Price at lock.
Talking points: The Scarlets’ play-off destiny is in their own hands, but with three games to go they cannot afford to slip up here.
Ulster face a daunting trip to Munster so this could be the opportunity for the Scarlets to give themselves some breathing space in the race for a top four spot. They could even overtake the Ospreys in third if they don’t win the first game of the day against Cardiff Blues.
Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac is only too aware of the importance of the next three games.
He said: “We had a pretty good day at the office last week against Treviso securing a bonus point victory. It’ll be an interesting challenge against the Dragons.
“We know what we’ve got coming up, we know what our opponents have got coming up; certainly there are some intriguing matches. Our focus is what we can control. What we can control is an 80 minute performance against the Dragons and if we can play to our potential hopefully we can get some points out of this game which will keep us headed in the right direction to the top four.
“We’re not going to underestimate them, they’re playing for the same reasons that we are; the big occasion, selectors will be there, there’s everything to play for. There are bragging rights up for grabs, it’s a derby. We’re expecting a ferocious 20 minutes to start with and we’re hoping we can come out on the right side.
“There’s a lot to play for and it starts with a good performance against the Dragons this weekend.”
Meanwhile Dragons coach Kingsley Jones has urged his players to use this opportunity to stake a claim for a Wales spot this summer.
He said: “Our players have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
“There are a lot of guys in our squad that also have one eye on the summer tour and there is no better opportunity for them to put hands up.”
Key Battle: Tyler Morgan v Jonathan Davies
Tyler Morgan made his 50th appearance for the Dragons in Parma and he continues in midfield this week up against Jonathan Davies. The 21-year-old won all three of his caps in 2015 when Davies was recovering from an ACL injury.
Key stat: The Scarlets have won four of their five Principality Stadium appearances, while the Dragons have lost all four of their Judgement Day matches.
Lions contenders: The Scarlets have a number of players who will be keen to make their mark in the final opportunity to impress Warren Gatland before Wednesday’s Lions squad announcement. Jonathan Davies started all three Tests in 2013 and will hope to make the squad again, while Liam Williams, Ken Owens and Scott Williams could all be in contention for a first Lions tour this summer.
Did you know? The man on the whistle Nigel Owens will referee his 150th Guinness PRO12 match in this encounter.
Dragons Top Points Scorer: Angus O’Brien 102pts. Top Try Scorer: Pat Howard, Sarel Pretorius 4
Scarlets Top Points Scorer: Rhys Patchell 107pts. Top Try Scorer: Steff Evans 7
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 27, Dragons won 5, Scarlets won 22.
At Principality Stadium, 5.15pm Live on Sky Sports and S4C
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 150th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Dan Jones, Sean Brickell (WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Aurwell Morgan (WRU)
TMO: Jon Mason (WRU)
For an hour the Scarlets struggled to find their best form but a moment of inspiration from Jonathan Davies set them on their way to a 21-16 win over Newport Gwent Dragons in the second game of Judgement Day.
Defeats for the Ospreys and Ulster earlier in the day meant the Scarlets could take a giant step towards a semi-final spot provided they saw off the Dragons at Principality Stadium.
But against a team who had never before won on Judgement Day, they were outplayed in the first 40 minutes, trailing 6-3 at the break.
They got back to 6-6 but it was only after a Davies break on the hour, leading to a sin-bin for Adam Hughes, that they really took control.
Davies got the first try two minutes later and Liam Williams, who had also taken over the kicking duties, followed suit to finally put the Dragons to bed, although Hughes did cross with the final play for a deserved losing bonus point.
The win pushes the Scarlets up third in the Guinness PRO12 table, and with the two teams behind them, Ospreys and Ulster, meeting in a fortnight, a win at Connacht next time out will likely see them into the play-offs.
In front of 60,642 fans and for referee’s Nigel Owens’ 150th Guinness PRO12 game, the first half was relatively scrappy, with neither side able to create many clear-cut chances.
It took until the final quarter for that to change, but the Scarlets will not mind as they secured the all-important four points.
While Wayne Pivac’s side had the better of the opening exchanges they could not turn that into points, and instead it was Angus O’Brien who thrived on his 50th appearance for the Dragons.
Two penalties from virtually the same spot in the space of two minutes gave the Dragons a 6-0 lead, and it was deserved with the Scarlets choosing to kick ball away rather than counter-attack.
The Scarlets did respond with a penalty of their own on 26 minutes, Dan Jones slotting the three points after Rhys Buckley was penalized for a no arms tackle.
But it was the Dragons who finished the half the stronger, and they will have been frustrated at their inability to convert their chances when a rolling maul was stopped over the line before another attempt ended with a knock-on.
Trailing by three the Scarlets made a better start to the second half and they levelled things up on 50 minutes with a Jones penalty.
However the Scarlets were not firing, one penalty kicked dead by Liam Williams soon after indicative of their struggles.
They needed a spark and they got one with a brilliant break by Davies who found Steff Evans in support. He was tackled by Hughes but the Dragons winger failed to release in the tackle and was sin-binned as a result.
The Scarlets sensed it was their moment to strike and they did just that. First Scott Williams was stopped just short but the Dragons were caught offside and the Scarlets took the penalty quickly to put Davies over. Liam Williams had surprisingly taken over kicking duties, and converted from out wide with the help of the post.
The Dragons weren’t about to fold however, hitting straight back with a third O’Brien penalty to trail by four with 15 minutes remaining.
However Liam Williams proved his equal with a penalty from 35 metres out, after a breakdown infringement, to push the lead back to seven.
And he followed that up with a try of his own, finishing on the right after being put into space to wrap up the victory.
They still had time to chase an improbable bonus point, with DTH Van der Merwe looking set to run in try number three when he broke through but Hughes produced a brilliant tackle to stop him.
And it was Hughes who had the final say finishing off a fantastic counter from the Dragons as they at least got one try for their efforts.
The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place on May 27 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Fans can guarantee their place by booking their tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie
Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final
14 Apr 2017
14 Apr 2017