Guinness PRO12: Scarlets looking to finish season on high, says Owens
Millennium Stadium win over Newport Gwent Dragons puts Wayne Pivac's men in pole position to secure Champions Cup place
Ken Owens wants the Scarlets to finish on a high this season by securing a top six finish in the Guinness PRO12.
The Scarlets and Wales hooker, who scored a try in their 29-10 win over Newport Gwent Dragons on Judgement Day III, is targeting another season in Europe’s top tier with their final two matches coming against clubs in the table’s bottom three.
We have two massive games to finish off the season, and we’ll hopefully be in that top tier again.
Liam Williams, Scott Williams and Harry Robinson also went over for Wayne Pivac’s men at the Millennium Stadium to put the West Walians in pole position to secure the last automatic qualification place for the European Champions Cup.
The bonus-point win ensured that the Scarlets moved back into sixth place ahead of Edinburgh, who defeated Zebre 37-0 at BT Murrayfield on Friday night, and Owens hopes there will be more top-tier European action at the Parc y Scarlets next season.
“We’ve really enjoyed challenging ourselves this year with some good results and good performances, and some big crowds at Parc y Scarlets,” Owens said.
“We want to continue that next season.
“It’s in our hands. We have two massive games to finish off the season, and we’ll hopefully be in that top tier again.”
The Scarlets have featured in Europe’s elite competition since its inception, but the new meritocratic qualification system has opened up the possibility of the Llanelli-based club not qualifying in an increasingly competitive PRO12.
We owe it to ourselves as a squad, and to the region as a whole, to qualify for that top tier competition.
The derby win ended the Dragons’ slim hopes of being able to finish sixth, but the Scarlets still have to see off the challenge of Edinburgh and Connacht in the last two rounds of the regular season.
After missing a large chunk of the season through injury, Owens admits to feeling the pressure and weight of responsibility as the region’s captain.
“It’s something I’ve had on my mind all season really, not to be the first Scarlets skipper not to make Europe,” he said.
“I’ve been feeling that pressure and feeling those nerves.
“Luckily the boys have been fronting up week in week out, we had a slip-up against Edinburgh but it’s in our hands now.
“We owe it to ourselves as a squad, and to the region as a whole, to qualify for that top tier competition.
“That’s what you want as rugby players and supporters is to be playing and watching against the best teams in Europe and really challenging yourselves.
“We’ve got two games left, we win both and we’re top six, which is our goal at the moment.
“We’ve got enough quality in our side.
“When the pressure’s been on this year and we’ve had to perform we’ve managed to do it.
“We want to finish on a positive and build for next year.”
The Scarlets return to action on Sunday 10 May with a final home clash against Cardiff Blues at the Parc y Scarlets before travelling to Italy to take on Benetton Treviso six days later.
Scarlets: Cardiff Blues (H), Benetton Treviso (A)
Edinburgh: Newport Gwent Dragons (A), Leinster (H)
Connacht: Zebre (A), Ospreys (H)