It was an explosive weekend of Pro12 action for the Welsh regions, but only the Scarlets managed to emerge victorious. Blistering performances from Blues and Ospreys saw both teams agonisingly edged out to late penalties from Leinster and Ulster respectively. Meanwhile, Dragons had taken the lead against Glasgow at Rodney Parade on Friday night, only for a superb side-step and run-in from visiting prop Alex Allen and the boot of Finn Russell to deny the hosts even a losing bonus point.
Scarlets will be pleased with their 22-6 victory away to Treviso, a destination which has not been a happy hunting ground for them in the past. This win sees them maintain a little momentum after an uncharacteristically slow start in the league. With a back line like theirs, I’m certainly expecting some impressive wins as the season progresses.
Blues continue to show lots of enterprise in attack and there were moments of absolute brilliance in Saturday’s performance – not least a fantastic solo try from Gareth Anscombe, who showed great feet and a turn of pace. Their high penalty count did them no favours against a very strong Leinster team, and was ultimately their undoing.
The Blues will certainly travel to Swansea with some confidence tomorrow night, ahead of a truly mouth-watering clash against the Ospreys. The form of these two sides points to this game being a classic. Ospreys will themselves have taken confidence from pushing league leaders Ulster close in Belfast, and will fancy their chances against Blues having restricted Ulster to scoring only three penalties at the weekend. Blues also haven’t beaten Ospreys in their last ten attempts – however, the teams look really evenly matched this term, and there will be some great match-ups right across the park: Gareth Anscombe v Sam Davies at fly-half, Rhys Webb v Lloyd Williams at scrum-half, Ellis Jenkins v Justin Tipuric at openside, to name a few.
We’ll be going to the game tomorrow; my first ever visit to the Liberty Stadium, and I’m really excited for the game. Come on Blues!!
In the other Welsh derby on this ‘big weekend’ of Pro12 action sees Scarlets face Dragons in Llanelli. While the Dragons are certainly g rowing into the season, with Hallam Amos in particular impressing, I can’t see them beating Scarlets this week.
Scarlets back-line hero Liam Williams has been in the news lots this week. His contract ends at the end of this season, and there are a string of English clubs keen for his signature. The WRU and Scarlets are teaming up to offer him a deal to remain in Wales, and I believe he will choose this option, rather than risk his place in the Wales team by exiling himself under the so-called ‘Gatland’s Law’, which restricts how many players can be chosen from outside of Wales.Williams is a mega-star of the game, and we need him in Wales and in the Pro12.
I feel there has been a real positivity about the Pro12 league this year, especially in Wales. The standard of rugby has been largely excellent so far, and the games I’ve seen have been really fiercely contested. A report this week claimed attendances and viewing figures are both up on this period last season. This weekend’s derbies also promise to be a great spectacle, and I hope they are a brilliant advert for the league.