Scarlets 22 Ospreys 14: Visitors have no answer to boot of Priestland
Putting the boot in: Rhys Priestland
Scarlets claimed their first derby victory in eight attempts in front of a bumper festive crowd at Parc y Scarlets.
The region had not beaten Ospreys since December 2007, but a first-half try from prop Rhys Thomas and 17 points from the boot of Wales fly-half Rhys Priestland saw them home in atypically bruising RaboDirect Pro12 encounter.
Ospreys had threatened to stage a powerful fightback after trailing 16-3 at half-time, with British Lions prop Adam Jones spearheading a dominant scrum.
But at 16-14, Priestland landed two more penalties to ease the nerves of the 14,756 crowd – a record league attendance for the region.
There was an error-strewn start from both sides, with the Ospreys – minus two international locks in Ian Evans and Ian Gough – struggling at the line-out and the Scarlets finding life tough at scrum time.
On a surface that was cutting up badly, it was the home side who made the early impression on the scoreboard.
Priestland landed two penalties as reward for the Scarlets pressure, but the first clear-cut try-scoring opportunity went the way of Ospreys. Fly-half Dan Biggar took the ball into the heart of the home defence and when it went wide it looked certain a try was coming.
However, Ireland wing Tommy Bowe spilled a pass from Shane Williams with the line at his mercy and the chance was gone.
Biggar did post his side”s first points with a well-struck penalty, but the rest of the half belonged to Scarlets and they claimed the opening try after 31 minutes.
Flanker Aaron Shingler set up an attacking scrum by charging down an attempted clearance by scrum-half Kahn Fotuali”i. Back-row partner Ben Morgan then charged off the back of a scrum, and from the ensuing ruck prop Rhys Thomas did well to drive through the challenge of Ryan Jones to touch down.
Priestland converted, then added a penalty shortly after to put his side in firm command, 16-3 up at the interval.
That comfort zone did not remain for long, however. With the Ospreys scrum becoming more and more of a weapon, the visitors started clawing back at the lead.
A long-range Biggar penalty from a scrum infringement made it 16-6, then the fly-half slotted another following more pressure when Ospreys would have felt they could have been awarded a penalty try from a short-range scrum.
They did get the try they desired, though, with outstanding full-back Barry Davies crossing in the corner after fine work by centre Ashley Beck.
Davies, against his former side, had looked dangerous all afternoon and was the man who made the initial break to put his side on the offensive.
Biggar, though, missed the conversion and after that the pendulum swung again.
Priestland landed a couple of penalties to give the Scarlets breathing space and despite some late pressure from the Ospreys, the home defence held firm to secure a long-awaited win.