Llanelli Star - - GUINNESS PRO14 - ROB LLOYD Rugby cor­re­spon­dent [email protected]­

IT may not have been the last time Ken Owens pulls on the No. 8 jersey, but the Scar­lets skip­per had more im­por­tant things on his mind at the fi­nal whis­tle of Satur­day’s hard­earned vic­tory over the Dragons.

Seven days ear­lier, Owens, a player who gives ev­ery last drop in ev­ery game, had left the field to the sound of boos from sec­tions of a 10,000-plus Parc y Scar­lets crowd.

He came in for crit­i­cism him­self for a de­ci­sion to go for the cor­ner in­stead of three points early in the sec­ond half, with the flak com­ing not just from fans on so­cial me­dia, but from closer to home.

Speak­ing in an in­ter­view to broad­cast­ers Premier Sports min­utes af­ter his side had ended a five-match los­ing streak with a scrappy 22-13 derby win over the Dragons, the Wales and Lions hooker was in no mood for hold­ing back.

“A lot of peo­ple have ques­tioned us, ques­tioned me per­son­ally, They can do what they want, but the boys have stuck to­gether over the last cou­ple of weeks and re­ally dug it out and we got the re­sult,” he said.

“One thing I have learned over the last month or so, when you win­ning ev­ery­one is in it to­gether, when you are los­ing ev­ery­body starts point­ing fin­gers.

“As a squad we have re­ally stuck to­gether. It wasn’t pretty out there, but we knew what we had to do, we had to get the win and we did that.”

Asked about the boo­ing in the wake of the Cardiff Blues de­feat, Owens elab­o­rated: “Peo­ple out­side of our group can do what they want; it’s not just the sup­port­ers boo­ing us, there has been a lot of crit­i­cism from within the club as well, that is the way it is.

“We have stayed tight over the last month or so, we know what we can do, we have faced a lot of ad­ver­sity, we are a tough group.

“You find a lot about your squad and play­ers when your backs are against the wall and at times it is all about win­ning.

“We are just happy to get the re­sult.”

With that, Owens headed into the dress­ing room to toast a much-needed vic­tory to kick­start 2019.

The Scar­lets are still a shadow of the slick out­fit who have en­joyed un­prece­dented suc­cess in the Guin­ness PRO14 in re­cent sea­sons, but that is un­der­stand­able con­sid­er­ing the ca­su­alty count they have had to deal with.

Seven ab­sent back-row­ers meant Owens was forced into wear­ing the No. 8 jersey for the first time in his pro­fes­sional ca­reer on Satur­day.

And un­sur­pris­ingly, he let no­body down.

The fi­nal stats showed 12 car­ries for 27 me­tres, six tack­les and a turnover strip for good mea­sure.

But it is Owens’s lead­er­ship that is prov­ing in­valu­able at such a test­ing time for the West Walians.

“He is im­mense,” said head coach Wayne Pi­vac. “He leads by ex­am­ple, he puts his body on the line ev­ery week.

“To be hon­est, we didn’t have any-

Johnny McNi­choll is tack­led by Jor­dan Wil­liams and Jack Dixon.

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