Belfast Telegraph

Reds hoping to weather storm on home turf

By Michael Sadlier

Coach Wayne Pivac's demeanour required no words to set the tone for how he was feeling.

Nevertheless, the Scarlets coach did attempt to sound rather more upbeat than he was clearly feeling in the immediate aftermath of watching his side having been pretty much taken apart in round one of their consecutive European clashes with Ulster.

A foul night of weather in Belfast accompanied by a dire enough performance from the men in red had been hard to take for the coach and with two of his players sin-binned - the first one resulting in a match-turning 14 points being conceded - and a penalty count having registered with 16 given against the Scarlets and only nine for the home side, it was hard for him to put any gloss on things.

So when the issue of full-back Liam Williams being carded for an apparent tip tackle on Louis Ludik was brought up - flanker James Davies had been the first player to go - all diplomacy was shelved as Pivac launched himself at referee Luke Pearce's decision and how the tackle was, in the Kiwi's opinion, never in that dodgy area in the first place.

Still, Pivac had been rather more restrained in the media centre than had been the case downstairs in the away changing room.

Here, by all accounts, there was little left to the imagination about how the Scarlets had simply failed to implement their game-plan and had allowed their own sloppiness and inaccuracy undermine their hopes which, when they had narrowed Ulster's lead to 14-9 early in the second half, had actually looked to be reasonably promising.

This defeat cut to the quick and that became crystal clear during this week as the players spoke about how much they now need to right the wrongs tomorrow to not only rescue themselves from having to accept an early exit in Europe but to also restore some pride to the West Wales side who have also been stuttering badly in the PRO12.

Pivac has opted for three changes to his starting side with Kristian Phillips coming back on the wing in place of Harry Robinson while Rhodri Williams gets in at scrum-half and Rob McCusker gets the nod at number eight with the barn-storming Rory Pitman strangely relegated to impact sub off the bench.

Openside flanker Davies has shrugged off his apparent injury and will doubtless be expected to do much more damage this time around.

The rather calmer coach made it known yesterday: "We know we can win at home.

"There's only a win in it between top and bottom and we're still very much in charge of our destiny.

"The game is massive for us now. If we get the result we're after then we're alive and it's bring on the next opposition which is Toulon and that can hopefully be a magnificent occasion here at the Parc."

First up, though, Pivac has to engineer the right result and much is expected at the Parc.

Belfast Telegraph


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