RaboDirect Pro12: Simon Easterby eyes European place for Scarlets

RaboDirect Pro12: Simon Easterby wants Scarlets to finish in sixth place and secure a European spot

By Gareth Llewellyn

Simon Easterby admits the Scarlets’ early season form and missed opportunities have cost his side a play-off place, but they are determined to hold on to their crucial sixth place.

Defeat against Glasgow Warriors nine days ago effectively ended the West Wales region’s hopes of reaching the RaboDirect Pro12 play-offs in successive seasons.

It’s still very much in our own hands. I think if we play similarly to what we did with ball in hand against Connacht then we’ll be difficult to beat towards the end of the season

Simon Easterby

But the Scarlets head coach is focusing on what his team can do in their remaining four games with three at the Parc y Scarlets.

“We missed out on a top four spot because of our early season form and losing games we should have won,” Easterby said.

“The most important thing now is that we finish strongly. We have to get as many points in the bag as we can and finish as high as we can; at the moment it’s all in our hands.”

Scarlets were without 15 players for Sunday’s thrilling clash with seventh-place Connacht, including co-captain Rob McCusker and Wales centre Scott Williams, but Easterby’s squad now have an extra week to recover ahead of their next game with Zebre on 12 April after failing to reach the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

“A number of players were unavailable, more through little bumps but it was nice to get through the game without any major concerns,” Easterby said of the Scarlets’ 32-30 win.

“We have a week off now and it’ll be nice to come back into Zebre week with a clean bill of health. The majority of the squad will be available for selection after quite a few of them missing out this week.

“It’ll be great to have them available – it’ll add to the competition in the squad.”

Easterby’s side looked good the win at 25-11 lead going into the final quarter, but tired legs and defensive errors allowed Connacht back in, and the former Scarlets and Ireland flanker was pleased his players bounced back to grab a fourth try in the final minute.

“We showed good mindset and character to get that fourth try,” he said. “Getting the five points was massive. That’s the good thing about this competition moving forward, if top six is what we’ve got to get to to get into Europe it makes these games all the more interesting for everyone including ourselves.

“It’s still very much in our own hands. I think if we play similarly to what we did with ball in hand against Connacht then we’ll be difficult to beat towards the end of the season.”

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