Scarlets take on Glasgow Warriors on Saturday at 19:35 in Llanelli as sixth hosts third in a meeting that will see two in-form sides do battle.
What’s at stake: The Welsh outfit have won their last four matches in the Guinness PRO12 to climb the table and they will need to use that momentum to overcome the Scots, who were impressive in their victory over Treviso last week.
A Warriors win will keep the pressure on fellow frontrunners Ospreys and Leinster – the three clubs share the lead atop the table – while a Scarlets win could see them close the gap on Ulster who sit a place above them.
Team news (Scarlets): Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac named an unchanged side from the bonus-point victory over Cardiff Blues last time out.
Team news (Glasgow Warriors): Gregor Townsend had the luxury of naming four Scotland players in their starting XV after they were released to play by Vern Cotter. Peter Horne and Rob Harley will co-captain Warriors from 10 and 6 respectively while second row Tim Swinson and centre Mark Bennett also start. Canada international prop Djustice Sears-Duru and New Zealand-born lock Brian Alainu’uese are in the Warriors’ starting XV for the first time and will go up against a settled Scarlets pack that has helped their side to victory in their last three home games.
Key battle: In-form Scarlets fly-half Rhys Patchell will go up against Peter Horne, who will be out to impress Scotland coach Vern Cotter before he names his squad to play the Wallabies.
Key stat: Scarlets have not won four in a row at home since the start of last season.
Glasgow Warriors have won their last three matches in the Guinness PRO12, their solitary defeat on the road came on a visit to Cardiff Blues in round 3.
Lions contenders: Mark Bennett could well force his way into Warren Gatland’s thinking with a strong autumn – the centre scored three tries for Scotland at last year’s Rugby World Cup.
Another Scot, John Barclay, has been a staple of Cotter’s Scotland squads ever since being recalled last year following more than 18 months out in the cold – and he has been a standout in the back-row for Scarlets since his move in 2013.
Did you know? The Scottish side have won on three of their last four visits to Llanelli.
Scarlets: A Thomas; DTH van der Merwe, S Hughes, H Parkes [c], S Evans, R Patchell, J Evans; W Jones, R Elias, W Kruger, T Price, D Bulbring, A Shingler, W Boyde, J Barclay.
Replacements: E Phillips, D Evans, P Edwards, L Rawlins, J Davies, A Davies, D Jones, G Owen
Top Points Scorer: R Patchell 49. Top Try Scorer: DTH van der Merwe 2
Glasgow Warriors: P Murchie, L Jones, M Bennett, S Johnson, R Hughes, P Horne [co-captain], A Price; D Sears-Duru, P MacArthur, S Puafisi, T Swinson, B Alainu’uese, R Harley [co-captain], S Favaro, L Wynne
Replacements: C Flynn, J Bhatti, D Rae, M Fagerson, L Haupeakui, G Hart, R Clegg, N Grigg.
Top Points Scorer: T Seymour 35. Top Try Scorer: T Seymour 7.
Match officials – Referee: Gary Conway (IRFU). Assistant Referee 1: David Wilkinson (IRFU). AR2: Neil Jones (WRU). TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 26, Scarlets won 12, Warriors won 14.
At Parc y Scarlets 7.35pm.
Live on S4C and BBC Alba
Referee: Gary Conway (IRFU, 25th competition game)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson (IRFU) Neil Jones (WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Aurwell Morgan (WRU)
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)
Scarlets turned on the second-half style to complete their fifth successive Guinness PRO12 victory, getting the better of a Glasgow Warriors side far from their best at the Parc y Scarlets.
Will Boyde made the most of his starting berth to open the scoring, despite the Warriors boasting much of the play, with Jonathan Evans also crossing the whitewash within the first 40 minutes.
That was despite Wyn Jones spending ten minutes in the sin bin, with Glasgow left to rue a bad day at the Guinness PRO12 office in a 27-3 defeat.
They failed to cross for a score for the first time since January, with Peter Horne the only man to kick their Scots before the forwards combined for Scarlets’ third and final effort in Llanelli.
Both teams intially struggled to find their feet in a tough opening start, though it was the Warriors holding the most of the early possession and territory without being able to get the scoreboard ticking.
And the lack of a score proved costly, with Scarlets reaping rewards from their very first venture forward.
Hadleigh Parkes was the main architect, breaking the line before unleashing the pace of DTH van der Merwe down the right wing into the heart of the Glasgow 22.
While the Canadian international was smothered out, Steff Evans picked up the gauntlet, and when he found Boyde after a superb jinking run, there was no stopping the No.8 getting a rare score.
It was a score which seemed to come against the run of play, but it took the visitors until the 30th minute to eventually get points to their name as Horne kicked a penalty after Mark Bennett had missed from 40 metres.
That came after Jones was sent to the sin bin for continually collapsing the maul, but the Warriors couldn’t capitalise on their opponents’ numerical inferiority, going into half-time four points adrift despite enjoying much of the play.
And the Scots came to regret not adding to their tally just 60 seconds into the second half, unable to make the most of the restart, upon which Rhys Patchell profited.
He swerved his way through a triumvirate of tackles, then feeding Steffan Evans, himself showing a clean pair of heels to set up namesake Jonathan, dotting down for Scarlets’ second try of the evening.
Patchell duly converted, and by the time he added a further three points from the tee, the Scarlets’ lead was standing at 14 points heading into the final 30 minutes.
From there the hosts never looked back, adding to their total just a few minutes later courtesy of a powerful rolling maul saw the forwards come to the fore to add a third try of the evening, not content to just sit on their lead at 24-3.
But the Warriors kept fighting however, despite Patchell kicking another penalty from close range, though their chances were dealt a further blow when new signing Brian Alainu’uese’s infringement in defence saw him given a yellow card.
But a bonus point was to prove elusive for Scarlets as the game turned scrappy, although the Warriors had to thank Grayson Hart for denying the fourth and final score.
It seemed Parkes had crossed when he touched the post with the clock already in overtime, but some super defence from Hart saw the skipper fall short in Llanelli, though it wasn’t enough to prevent a triumphant victory for Wayne Pivac’s side.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final
04 Nov 2016
01 Nov 2016