RaboDirect Pro12: Talking points as Scarlets beat Connacht

RaboDirect Pro12: Three talking points as Scarlets run out 32-30 winners against Irish side Connacht

By Gareth Llewellyn
Scarlets
32
Connacht
30

Young Welsh backs shines again

Liam Williams continues to be the rising star of Welsh rugby with yet more impressive performances and he was man-of-the-match again today. If he can avoid injury, he will certainly be Wales’ first-choice full-back on the summer tour of South Africa – and should be the long-term option at 15 for Wales. He wasn’t the only Welsh hopeful who impressed in the 32-30 win over Connacht. Scrum-half Gareth Davies—not to be confused with the Cardiff Blues outside-half of the same name—is the Pro12’s leading try scorer this season and brings a superb running game. He deserves to be given a once over by the Wales coaching staff this summer. His stock is certainly rising, but with Mike Phillips, Rhys Webb and club team-mate Rhodri Williams all ahead of him in the international pecking order, he may never get a look in. Wales have been looking for the new Shane Williams since the diminutive winger called time on his international career in 2011 and in Jordan Williams, who was one of the stand-out performers at the Junior World Championship last year, they may have found him. What he lacks in height, he makes up for in bulk, pace and dancing feet with a wicked step that outfoxed the Connacht backline on more than one occasion. His defensive game certainly has room for improvement, but incumbent winger Alex Cuthbert isn’t exactly doing well in that area this year either and form rather than reputation should win out. Cuthbert has been woefully bad in recent months. The Scarlets back three, with Kristian Phillips joining the Williams boys, has been electric in attack and factor in the talent of Jon Davies from 13 and the talent of the injured Scott Williams and there is a good case to make for much of the future Wales backline coming from Llanelli, although Rhys Priestland’s kicking ability and game management still leaves a lot of questions over whether he is a first-choice 10.

Connacht liabilities continue

The Irish side will be delighted at taking two points back to Galway after being outplayed for so much of the match, but also at the spirit they showed late in the match to get three late tries. In the past, they may have rolled over as the opposition went in search of a bonus-point try, but Pat Lam’s side have been impressive in recent weeks having won four on the bounce and back-to-back away wins. Despite the four-try haul, they never looked like they could win against the Scarlets and had back three Robbie Henshaw, Fionn Carr and Tiernan O’Halloran to thank for spearheading keeping the Welsh side honest in the closing stages. There will be concerns about the Connacht pack. Thoroughly destructive last week at Rodney Parade against Newport Gwent Dragons, they struggled to cope with the physicality put up by the Scarlets. The major problem, however, is carrying outside-half Dan Parks. He may be the Celtic League’s all-time leading points scorer and still possesses a solid kicking game, but he is scared of being tackled by his own shadow and in such a critical position in the three-quarter line, that’s just not acceptable in the brutal era of professional rugby. Parks was at fault for two of the Scarlets’ four tries. The first try, just two minutes in, the former Scotland international was ‘spooking’ in the 13 channel allowing his opposite number Rhys Priestland to simply loop a ball to his outside centre over the Parks’s head. Jon Davies is partial to a break or two from 13 and Parks was never going to be able to deal with his pace and power. If he isn’t prepared to be tackled or put in the hits, he needs to call it a day, or be forcibly kept off the field otherwise every opposition will run their biggest backs at Parks for an easy ride.

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