RaboDirect Pro12: Talking points as Glasgow beat Scarlets

RaboDirect Pro12: Talking points as Glasgow Warriors beat Scarlets 14-6

By Gareth Llewellyn

Warriors learn to win ugly

The Warriors have enjoyed a good record over the Scarlets of late, save for defeat in their first match at Scotstoun Stadium last season, and Saturday night’s less than vintage win is testament to the determination Gregor Townsend’s side have shown since he took over. The versatile Niko Matawalu—so often the Warriors’ saviour—was at his mercurial best, never restricted to his left wing position and always an attacking option no matter how much the Scarlets tried to shut him down. With experienced internationals returning from international duty and players like captain Al Kellock and Sean Maitland coming back from injury, the Warriors are nailed on to overturn their deficit to the Ospreys to become the only non-Irish side in the top four. It would take a dramatic collapse from Leinster and Munster for the Warriors to reach the top two, even with their two games in hand—both of which are at home—but the signs are there that with a robust defence and dynamic counter-attacking backline they can continue to cause damage in the Pro12 even if they have to travel to Ireland in the semi-finals in May. Seasons past have seen the Warriors run in tries for fun at Scotstoun, with bonus-point wins aplenty yet as with their last home win against Connacht six weeks ago, it was far from pretty. The Warriors have shown that they can play attritional rugby and come out on top when they need to. They may not have matched the Ospreys and Leinster in picking up a bonus point this weekend, but with five of their final seven games at home, few would bet against the Warriors continuing to lead the charge for Scottish rugby.

Scarlets have 10 problems

It wouldn’t be Welsh rugby without a good debate about who should be first-choice outside-half and not just at international level. With Rhys Priestland out with a knock picked up in the second half of Wales’ final Six Nations match against Scotland last week, Aled Thomas—in his second spell with the Scarlets after time with Carmarthen Quins, Newport Gwent Dragons and London Welsh—continued in the position, but fans of the West Wales region would have wished the Gloucester-bound 29-year-old had stayed at home after a performance to forget in Glasgow. The Scarlets’ running threat was suitably nullified by one of the meanest defences in the league, but distribution from pivot was poor at best and non-existent at times. After his opposite number had slotted the opening score after eight minutes Thomas sent the restart straight into touch. Infuriatingly for the sizeable Scarlets support at Scotstoun, he did exactly the same 12 minutes later after Weir’s second penalty. Often a second-choice 10, Thomas has form for a drop in confidence if things don’t go away and his inconsistency played a huge part in preventing the Scarlets getting much front-foot ball for their dangerous backs Jonathan Davies, Jordan and Liam Williams. With former England international Olly Barkley on kicking duty, slotting two out of two before he departed late in the second half, Thomas had no opportunity to gain confidence from any goal kicking. To compound his—and the Scarlets’— misery, Thomas missed a last-minute penalty which would have given them a losing bonus point to take back to Llanelli. Instead, their play-off hopes this year are over.

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