Scarlets back on top of Pro12 after grinding win

Edinburgh's WP Nel tackles Ulster's Dan Tuohy during the bruising encounter. Picture: SPORTSFILE
Edinburgh's WP Nel tackles Ulster's Dan Tuohy during the bruising encounter. Picture: SPORTSFILE
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As Glasgow were forced into an unwanted weekend off when Saturday’s sell-out home match against Leinster fell victim to the atrocious weather, this week’s European Champions Cup rivals Scarlets scraped back to the top of the Guinness Pro12.

Connacht’s slip up at Cardiff on Friday night opened the door for the Llanelli-based region but they made hard work of beating bottom side Treviso 22-20 in ­Italy on Saturday.

It was heavy weather of a different sort in Glasgow and referee Nigel Owens called the game off without travelling in the morning after receiving images of the waterlogged pitch and reports of heavy continuing rain and strong winds.

It leaves Glasgow with a fixture headache and the prospect of having as little as one weekend off between now and the end of the Six Nations. As well as the Leinster game, their trip to Zebre on 9 January, which is to be moved to accommodate the rearranged European Champions Cup trip to Racing 92, which was postponed after the Paris terror attacks, also needs a new date.

With an injury list numbering 15 and the Six Nations set to deprive Gregor Townsend of a host of key players, the Pro12 champions face a testing period ahead. The immediate focus, however, turns to the must-win double header against Scarlets, the first of which is due to take place at Scotstoun this Saturday.

Two tries from Morgan Allen had the Welsh side looking good at Stadio Mongio but Treviso, who had run Glasgow close the previous week, mounted an impressive comeback only for the boot of Steve Shingler to see Scarlets home by a couple of points.

John Barclay, the Scotland and former Glasgow flanker, said: “We’ve always come away to the Italian teams and struggled a little bit. We started well today; to be fair we didn’t expect them to play with so much width.

“We felt we let them back in the game a little bit with some ill discipline. They were pretty accurate and they came back into it. We felt if we got back down there we could score because of the way we were playing when we had the ball.

“At the end of the day we’ve come away with another win so we’re happy.

“It’s nice but you don’t get anything for being top of the table at this stage in the season. It’s a long season and we’ve only played nine league games.

“It’s nice now with two European games to sit there and look at it and think we’ve worked pretty damn hard to get there and we’ve played some scrappy games. I don’t think we’ve played our best rugby but we’re grinding out good wins. It’s pleasing but it’s still early days.”

Newport Gwent Dragons made it a clean sweep for the Welsh teams over the weekend as they surprised third-placed Munster 22-6 at Rodney Parade.

The Dragons had only beaten the two Italian sides before yesterday and were coming off the back of a heavy loss at Edinburgh the previous week.

But the boot of Dorian Jones kept the visitors at bay throughout and lock Rynard Landman scored the game’s only try late on as Munster slipped to a second defeat on the bounce.

Ospreys made it three in a row as they cruised to a 39-22 win over Zebre in Parma.

After a tight first half, two tries in two minutes from Eli Walker and the man-of-the-match Justin Tipuric gave Steve Tandy’s side a commanding lead, and despite a battling effort from Zebre, the Ospreys ran in five tries for a good bonus-point win.

Zebre, who slip back to second bottom, had made a dream start when Dries van Schalkwyk intercepted a ball from the Ospreys in midfield and then sent Kayle van Zyl away for the try. Carlo Canna converted to make it 7-0 to the home side after just three minutes. But Ospreys ultimately proved too strong.

Ulster, meanwhile, are counting the cost of their 14-7 win over Edinburgh at the Kingspan on Friday night. The Irish province raced into an early 14-0 lead but, with the elements behind them in the second period, the Scots pushed hard and came away with a losing bonus point. In a bruising encounter, Ulster coach Les Kiss has dounts over Iain Henderson, Darren Cave, Peter Nelson and Dan Tuohy for their European double-header with Toulouse.

Connacht’s pain of losing top spot in the table was compounded by a big casualty list of their own at Cardiff, where coach Pat Lam lost Craig Ronaldson, Ian Porter, Kieran Marmion, Quinn Roux and Eoin McKeon to ­injury.

Connacht played nearly half of the match in the Welsh capital without a recognised scrum-half, and Lam knows they will have their work cut out in the coming weeks

“We took some pretty big knocks,” said the Galway chief.

“It’s a worry for sure; we came into this game with Cardiff with 16 injuries and it looks like now that we’re going to be adding to that list.”