Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby Ulster

Scarlets have regained belief to make play-off charge

By Michael Sadlier

It's funny how things can quickly change as quite suddenly the noises coming out of Parc y Scarlets are much more upbeat.

All fairly understandable, of course, as the Scarlets are coming to Ravenhill on the back of a more than decent three game winning run in the PRO12, all a rather far cry from the situation they found themselves in when they were last over here on that rain-lashed Saint Valentine's Day, when the game had to be called off.

Back then, coach Simon Easterby had seen his charges run up a big score against Treviso the previous week – the first in their, so far, sequence of three victories – which had brought the beleaguered west Wales outfit their first taste of success in five PRO12 outings, and though there were tentative suggestions that they could be about to make a late charge for the top four, few really believed that such talk was a likely outcome.

Now, though, the picture has somewhat altered since Easterby and co were left kicking their heels last month as their Ravenhill game fell foul to the weather. Successes have been banked over Edinburgh and significantly, former leaders Munster, though, admittedly, both were achieved at Parc y Scarlets.

Even so, taking Munster down 18-13, two weeks ago, contained all the elements required to suggest that the Scarlets might just be shaping up for a late charge in much the same way as they did last season when they made it to the top four only to, well, succumb rather easily at, of all places, Ravenhill.

Still, Easterby (pictured) does at least return being able to sound more upbeat about what his currently internationally weakened squad can now potentially achieve as they sit in sixth and 10 points adrift of the Ospreys in fourth and the Scarlets also have a game in hand though. Of course, fifth-placed Glasgow have two games in their bid to catch up.

"We have to get something out of every game," Easterby said having identified losing bonus points as the bare minimum that must be achieved from tonight and their next game at Glasgow.

"There are still 35 points up for grabs and we're going to have to work really hard to get into that top four, but we've got a good run-in with four home games.

"If we can take points from the next two away games we'll certainly be well placed to challenge the top four," he added.

And with those home games against Connacht, Zebre, the Dragons and the Blues, you can see that the Scarlets might just fancy their chances at moving up the table and having a real shot at creeping into the top four.

First, though, there is the matter of getting something from tonight and even though they got the better of Ulster over in Llanelli back in November, winning in Belfast is not something they are familiar with, having last done so in the PRO12 back in September 2008 – the last time they achieved a season's double over Ulster.

Easterby has made three changes from the Munster game with Gareth Maule returning to outside centre, while up front hooker Kirby Myhill and tighthead prop Jacobie Adriaanse join the grizzled figure of veteran of Phil John at the coalface.

And the Scarlets have experience elsewhere in their pack with South African second rows George Earle and Johan Snyman both due to rack up their 50th appearances in the Scarlets shirt, while Easterby will also be expecting a lot from his back row of Josh Turnbull, John Barclay and skipper Rob McCusker.

It's a tall order, but what a difference a few wins can make when it comes to building confidence and belief towards reviving a squad's mojo.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph