Local bragging rights are on the line at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday as the hosts welcome Ospreys for the final round of the Guinness PRO12.
Six British & Irish Lions are on show in a crunch clash that will go a long way to deciding who plays who in the semi-finals.
What’s at stake?
Scarlets sit third in the standings, but cannot catch the top two so are definitely facing an away semi-final trip.
Their opponents Ospreys could leapfrog them into third with victory and four more league points than their rivals.
But they also need to worry about fourth spot where Ulster could catch them if they suffer a huge defeat and Ulster run riot against Leinster.
Scarlets team news:
Ken Owens will lead the side in the colossal clash and was this morning named as only one of two Welsh representatives in the Guinness PRO12’s Dream Team, alongside fellow Scarlet James Davies.
Gareth Davies and Scott Williams make a return to the starting XV with Jonathan Evans and Hadleigh Parkes moving to the replacements bench.
Jake Ball and John Barclay miss out with a shoulder and hamstring injuries respectively. Lewis Rawlins comes in to the second row with Josh Macleod and Will Boyde retaining their places at 7 and 8.
Ospreys team news:
Josh Matavesi comes in to replace Ashley Beck at inside centre in an otherwise unchanged backline from the one that downed Ulster last time out.
Up front Rhodri Jones comes in at tighthead for Brian Mujati while Dan Suter covers on the bench where he is joined by Jonathan Spratt and Dafydd Howells.
Looking ahead to the West Wales derby clash Head Coach Wayne Pivac said:
“There is pressure. Top four has been put to bed but we’re certainly looking at finishing as high up as we can. That may impact on the pool for Europe next season, which is important.
“One of the team goals was to be the top Welsh region, to finish top we need to win. We were able to do that last year, we would like to replicate that. Psychologically we’re all rugby people and we want to win! Let’s get a win under our belts and see where we end up.
Ospreys Head Coach, Steve Tandy, paid tribute to Dan Evans – who sets a new record of never missing a Guinness PRO12 game in three seasons with the region:
“To go three entire seasons without missing a game in the PRO12 speaks volumes about Dan, as a player and a person. Nobody can question what he brings to the team, on and off the field. An incredible professional, his talents speak for themselves and we have no doubt whatsoever about his all-round quality.
“It’s an achievement in itself to play so many consecutive championship matches, something nobody in any of the four competing countries have ever done. Then, when you look at the list of Ospreys who have played 29 times in a season and consider nobody before Dan has ever managed 30, that puts this season’s achievement into context. Dan should be rightly proud and, like us, will be hoping that he can increase that record further over the coming weeks.”
Liam Williams will be on the right wing for the Scarlets this weekend for his final game in front of his home crowd before he makes the move to Saracens.
Up against him on the opposite right wing will be the electric Keelan Giles – who has six tries in the Guinness PRO12 already this season and will be desperate to prove his worth.
Wales announce their squad to take on Tonga and Samoa this summer next week and Giles will be desperate to put his hand up for selection.
Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies line up in the Scarlets back line ahead of the Lions trip to New Zealand while hooker Ken Owens captains them up front.
Meanwhile the Ospreys have both Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar in the half-backs while Justin Tipuric lines up at openside flanker. Lock Alun Wyn Jones is not quite fit after his shoulder surgery but could be available come the play-offs.
Key stat: Scarlets have reached only their second ever Semi-Final, the other being in season 2012/13, and have won their last four Guinness PRO12 matches since losing in Leinster on 4 March.
Did you know? Scarlets only home defeat in the PRO12 this season was way back in round 1 when Munster were the visitors.
Scarlets top points scorer: Rhys Patchell 112, Top try scorer: Steff Evans 10
Ospreys top points scorer: Sam Davies 106, Top try scorer: Keelan Giles, Dan Evans 6
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 27, Scarlets won 8, Ospreys won 18 with 1 game drawn.
At Parc y Scarlets, 5.15pm Live on Sky Sports and BBC Wales
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 151st competition game)
Assistant Referees:Dan Jones (WRU), Wayne Davies (WRU).
Citing Commissioner: John Charles (WRU)
TMO:Jon Mason (WRU)
Two tries just before the interval were key for Scarlets, as they ran out convincing 40-17 winners over the Ospreys to seal third place in the Guinness PRO12 standings.
A home semi-final was always going to be out of the region’s reach heading into the final round, but that did not stop Scarlets putting in an imperious performance against their Welsh rivals.
They led 23-10 at the break despite Keelan Giles grabbing the first try of the day, as the boot of Rhys Patchell kept them in touch before Will Boyde and Steff Evans crossed the whitewash while Rhys Webb was in the sin bin.
And two more tries after the interval from Aaron Shingler, Johnny McNicholl, and the superb Jonathan Davies put the hosts out of sight – and regardless of Dan Baker’s consolation score, Scarlets will travel to Leinster for their Guinness PRO12 semi-final full of heart.
It was the Ospreys who flew out of the blocks, winning a penalty which was dispatched by Dan Biggar with just a minute played.
And while Scarlets thought they had immediately hit back with a try, the TMO ruled out Ken Owens’ effort on five minutes, with the hooker adjudged to have just been tackled into touch before dotting down.
Rhys Patchell struck a penalty of his own through the posts however just a minute later to level the scores, with Biggar the man penalised.
The fly-half soon made amends as Ospreys scored from Biggar’s offload; Giles still had a lot of work to do to wriggle out of Owens’ tackle, and somehow the youngster stretched over the line to complete a brilliant finish.
Biggar made no mistake with the routine conversion from the left, and it was 10-3 to the visitors on 12 minutes.
Successive Patchell penalties on 17 and 23 minutes pegged the Ospreys back however, and the warning signs were there for the visitors as Davies made a bulldozing break up the field.
And there was a huge moment in the game on 28 minutes as Rhys Webb saw yellow for a high tackle on Owens with the Scarlets bearing down on the line.
The hosts looked to make their numerical advantage count immediately, and as they put the ball through the hands it looked like McNicholl had scored in the left corner – but again they were denied by the TMO who spotted a knock-on at the breakdown in the build-up.
But while Webb was still off the field, Boyde went over on the right as the Scarlets once again put the ball through the hands and made use of the space.
And a sublime break from No.9 Gareth Davies – off the back of a scrum inside his own half – paved the way for a sucker-punch try just before half time for the Scarlets, as he offloaded to Jonathan Davies who in turn found Evans to finish off the brilliant breakaway under the posts.
And while the Ospreys kept their hosts at bay for the first 20 minutes of the second period, when Shingler went over on the hour mark the floodgates opened.
It was Liam Williams who made the initial break and offload, with the effervescent Jonathan Davies there to collect his pass, and Scarlets were lining up in support with Shingler eventually the benefactor to score under the posts.
Two more tries in the final ten minutes put the gloss on the win; first Evans’ sublime offload out the back of his hand released the rapid McNicholl around the outside, before the winger was again provider as he collected Jonathan Davies’ kick and offloaded for the onrushing centre to complete the rout
There was still time for Baker to burrow over with a minute remaining, but the nature of this derby victory will have left Wayne Pivac purring ahead of the Guinness PRO12 semi-finals.
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
05 May 2017
05 May 2017
03 May 2017