The Scarlets had a dream start to the season in the RaboDirect PRO12, with a thumping win over Leinster at home followed up by two hard earned wins on the road to Glasgow and Connacht. These were three fixtures that they lost in the competition last season.
It was the nature in which the Scarlets won that was so pleasing to see, with new signing second row George Earle helping to shore up the forwards and give them the stability they had been lacking in previous seasons and giving the backs a chance to shine especially George North and Andrew Fenby on the wings.
Their stay at the top of the table soon became precarious in the home derby versus their fiercest rivals the Ospreys. The achillies heel of the Scarlets, their forwards, was again exposed slightly and combined with the inconsistency of fly half Rhys Priestland’s boot, all they could gain from that match was a losing bonus point.
They had looked to get back on track away to Treviso, cruising to a fifteen point half time lead, only for two lapses in concentration and some poor discipline to hand the game back to their Italian opponents.
Suddenly, three wins out of five wasn’t looking as good, but with another home derby next up they were soon back to winning ways with victory over the Newport Gwent Dragons.
With six games played, and points (bonus or otherwise) gained in each game, they now sit second in the table on 20 points, just one behind rivals Ulster who have a game in hand.
Their forwards still remain their biggest problem and, with prop Rhodri Jones still out injured and new signing tight head Adriaanse not yet arrived, their front row is their main weakness. Vallejos, capable of playing back and second row, has only just arrived in west Wales and new lock Snymon has so far only had one appearance.
With most of the results having gone their way, and effectively three new forwards to bring into the squad, the rest of the season still looks promising. The next group of games will test their squad depth and with Munster and Ulster both on the horizon they will need their new forwards to settle in quickly.
The Scarlets have received a boost in their backline as well with the return of the injured Morgan Stoddart, who scored on his return against the Dragons, and new signing Gareth Owen finally fully fit. With a squad full of star backs, this will only provide greater room for competition and starting places that should see the Scarlets push on to greater achievements this season.
Biggest surprise so far: The score line against Leinster. A win was predicted, but a close one, and the 45 points the Scarlets scored was a pleasant surprise.
Most valuable player so far this season: Aaron Shingler. Superb in the lineout, effective at the breakdown and extremely dangerous in the loose.
Overall season prediction for your side: I am sticking with the Scarlets making the Play-Offs in the RaboDirect PRO12.
Other predictions: I am still backing Andrew Fenby to be the top Scarlets try scorer, so far he hasn’t let me down!
Who’s going to win the RaboDirect PRO12: Before the season started I said the Ospreys, and I still think they are a threat, but I now think Ulster will be the ones to beat.
Also to be found here: http://www.rabodirectpro12.com/news/blogs.php just scroll down for the Scarlets blog.