It was with blue skies that Scarlets welcomed the Cardiff Blues to Parc Y Scarlets, with the knowledge that a win would see them leapfrog the Ospreys and move into a playoff spot.
Both teams were fielding their strongest sides and the first few minutes of nonstop rugby showed the mind set the players have brought to the match. It was end to end, with endeavour sometimes getting in the way of skill.
The Scarlets looked slightly nervous in the first twenty minutes, but both defences held firm against attack after attack. Owen Williams missed with a long range penalty, and it took until the 17th minute for the Blues to have a chance of putting points on the board, with Leigh Halfpenny easily slotting over a kick.
The Blues backrow was very effective in stripping the Scarlets of ball when they went into contact, with Warburton and Navidi linking well. It was the Scarlets’ front five had the upper hand and continuously worked their way up field and put pressure on the Blues in their own half. The pressure eventually told with the Blues’ defence pushing up and a quick pass from Turnbull to centre Jon Davies saw the Wales centre cut back inside with a great angle to cross for a try, with Williams adding the extras.
Half chances abounded, with the Scarlets guilty at times of forcing the game, over eager at times in their search for tries. With just five minutes till the break, Halfpenny added a further three points to draw the Blues back within a point, yet Owen Williams responded with a kick of his own just before the break.
The second half saw both teams resume playing the game at breakneck speed and it was soon to become the half of half breaks. Patchell for the Blues and Scott Williams for the Scarlets saw the game open up in front of them but for both sides the moves agonizingly broke down.
Approaching the 60th minute mark, the Scarlets yet again found themselves deep in Blues territory as their forwards gained yard after yard in close quarters. Just five metres out a quick pass from scrum half Aled Davies to Jon Davies saw the centre crash over for his second try, with the Blues defence unable to stop him from close range. Williams converted.
The final quarter saw both teams empty their benches and it was a welcome return to Parc y Scarlets for fly half Rhys Priestland after his long recovery from an achillies injury. One of his first contributions was a delightful pop pass releasing Jon Davies through a gap in the midfield to race downfield, with the game finally breaking up.
As the Blues started a promising break, a pass from Ceri Sweeney fell loose and as it was hacked through, Scarlets full back Liam Williams after an excellent pick up raced through the gaps left to cross for a superb individual try to which Priestland added the extras.
The Scarlets searched for the losing bonus point try but the Blues refused to give up more ground. Going into the last five minutes, the match finally slowed as a bout of aerial kicking started as the game petered out to a close.
The Blues will be pleased with their backrow and positive displays from the likes of Robinson, Patchell and Halfpenny, but this match highlighted again the work they need to do in their front five for them to start truly competing again.
The Scarlets will be very happy with the win that has seen them move into a playoff spot, with a win against Treviso at home all that stands between them and a semi-final. They will be frustrated with some of their errors, but with six wins on the bounce at home, and the return of players from injury, their confidence will no doubt be on a high.
Full time result: Scarlets 24 – 6 Cardiff Blues
Scarlets: Liam Williams; George North, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Andy Fenby; Owen Williams, Aled Davies; Phil John, Ken Owens, Samson Lee, George Earle, Johan Synman, Aaron Shingler, Josh Turnbull, Rob McCusker (capt).
Replacements: Matthew Rees, Rhodri Jones, Jacobie Adriannse, Jake Ball, Sione Timani, Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland, Gareth Maule.
Cardiff Blues : Leigh Halfpenny; Owen Williams, Gavin Evans (capt), Jamie Roberts, Harry Robinson; Rhys Patchell, Lewis Jones; Taufa’ao Filise, Kristian Dacey, Scott Andrews, Filo Paulo, Lou Reed, Josh Navidi, Sam Warburton, Michael Paterson.
Replacements: Marc Breeze, Thomas Davies, Benoit Bourrust, Bradley Davies, Luke Hamilton, Alex Walker, Ceri Sweeney, Dafydd Hewitt.