Rugby matches don’t come any bigger than this…. Scarlets versus the Ospreys, the battle of our nearest and dearest enemy, the Pro12’s version of Wales v England in terms of rivalry.
This season’s game sees the Scarlets guaranteed a play-off spot whilst the Ospreys aren’t guaranteed but Ulster would require an almost miracle to finish in fourth.
As always, the last match of the season is tinged with sadness as we say a fond farewell to players who leave for pastures new. Among those departing this season are Liam ‘Sanjay’ Williams who heads for Saracens, DTH Van de Merwe who is on his way to Newcastle, my sponsored player Morgan Allen, who is reportedly off to Rugby League, Pete Edwards, Aled Thomas, Rynier Bernardo, Richard Smith and Matthew Owen. All have worn the Scarlets jersey with pride and are wished well in the future careers.
The Ospreys were offered an early chance to put points on the board as referee Nigel Owens penalised the home team from the kick off giving Dan Biggar a simple penalty kick to put the visitors ahead by 0 points to 3.
However, the Scarlets demonstrated their intent as they kept ball in hand, testing the Ospreys defence as they made their way into the opposition 22 before Captain Ken Owens squeezed over in the corner. Considerable deliberation followed before Owens deemed that Owens was in touch prior to grounding the ball to the dismay of the Parc y Scarlets faithful.
Winning the line-out enabled the Scarlets to gain some reward for their endeavors as Rhys Patchell added a penalty to draw the game level at 3 points all.
It was the Ospreys that scored the first try of the afternoon with Wing Keelan Giles crossing the whitewash following a period of pressure from the men in black. Biggar added the conversion to give the Ospreys 10 points to 3 lead.
Another penalty at the breakdown saw Patchell offered another penalty kick. His successful narrowed the Ospreys’ lead to 6 points to 10.
A break from Jonathan ‘Foxy’ Davies had the Scarlets faithful on their feet but unfortunately the move ended with Owens facing the full wrath of the crowd as silly decisions continued going against the Scarlets.
Another Patchell penalty kick put the Scarlets back within a point of their opponents, 9 points to 10, following an immense effort from the forwards at the scrum.
A yellow card for Rhys Webb saw the Scarlets take full advantage of their extra man as Johnny McNicholl squeezed over in the same corner as Owens had earlier. Despite initially awarding the try, opposition from the Ospreys saw Nigel take another look just as Patchell was about to kick the conversion and after a period of slow-clapping and booing, the try was disallowed and play went back for a knock-on.
Despite 2 disallowed tries, the Scarlets finally crossed the whitewash with Will Boyde squeezing over in the opposite to the seemingly unlucky corner! Patchell’s touchline conversion put the Scarlets ahead for the first time in the match as half time loomed…16 points to 10.
However, the Scarlets hadn’t finished scoring the points for the half! Superb handling from the backs offered Steff Evans a chance to demonstrate his pace. The Pro12’s leading try scorer this season’s blistering pace saw him cross unopposed under the posts. Patchell added the conversion to maintain his 100% kicking record as the Scarlets ended the half ahead by 23 points to 10.
Rhys Patchell could have further increased the Scarlets’ lead at the start of the second half, but with the wind picking up, his long-range effort was just short of the sticks.
A swinging shoulder from Bradley Davies saw the Lock fortunate not to be spending 10 minutes in the sin bin. Again, the wind played a part in Patchell’s missed penalty attempt as it seemed certain until the last seconds.
The home team finally crossed the white wash in the second half as their dominance over the Ospreys continued. Superb hands from the backs released Aaron Shingler who crossed under the posts. Patchell added the conversion to further increase the Scarlets’ lead to 30 points to 10, and suddenly the Scarlets were on the brink of a try bonus point.
A storming break from Scott Williams almost saw the bonus point try scored far sooner than anticipated, but unfortunately the pace of Keeland Giles saved the day for the Ospreys as he put in an important covering tackle to the delight of the majority of the 13, 256 in attendance.
The substitution of Liam ‘Sanjay’ Williams saw Parc y Scarlets on its feet as one of its favourite sons left the pitch. It is hopeful that this will not be his last time in his beloved Scarlets jersey with Coach Wayne Pivac stating midweek that he was confident that Sanjay would return following his spell at Saracens.
Full Back Johnny McNicholl finally secured the bonus point for the Scarlets as he crossed under the posts. Replacement Hadleigh Parkes was unsuccessful with the conversion attempt, but the 35 points to 10 score line saw the Scarlets firmly in control of the game. Another try followed in quick succession as Jonathan Foxy Davies crossed for try number 5. Despite missing the conversion, the Scarlets lead was now 40 points to 10.
Unfortunately, the Ospreys were allowed a consolation try at the end of the game with Dan Baker crossing before Dan Evans converted to give a final score of 40 points to 17.
This sees both regions reach the play-off stages of this year’s Pro12 with both facing Irish opposition on Irish soil. Could this be the season the Scarlets finally win some silverware? On this performance, I think so!
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