Llanelli Star - - GUINNESS PRO14 - SI­MON THOMAS Rugby cor­re­spon­dent si­[email protected]­

THE Scar­lets claimed max­i­mum points in a one-sided af­fair to keep their hopes of Cham­pi­ons Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion very much alive.

When they lost at home to Ed­in­burgh the pre­vi­ous week­end, it was all doom and gloom.

It looked as though they were go­ing to miss out on a place in Europe’s top com­pe­ti­tion for the very first time.

But the way re­sults de­vel­oped last week­end, they now still have ev­ery­thing to play for.

It was Ed­in­burgh’s 29-7 home de­feat at the hands of Ul­ster on Fri­day night that re­ally opened the door for Wayne Pi­vac’s men.

They then knew if they could se­cure bonus-point vic­to­ries over Ze­bre and the Drag­ons in their last two reg­u­lar sea­son games they would have a good chance of fin­ish­ing fourth and se­cur­ing a Cham­pi­ons Cup play-off spot.

Well, they have got the first part of the job done, an Ital­ian job as it hap­pens.

They had to wait un­til the 72nd minute to nail the all-im­por­tant fourth try, as No. 8 Uzair Cassiem pow­ered over for his sec­ond.

With that se­cured, they crossed for two more in quick suc­ces­sion to round off a six-try rout.

If they can re­peat the feat and claim the max­i­mum against the Drag­ons on Judge­ment Day, they will be in with a real shout of a Euro play-off.

The only way Ed­in­burgh could then deny them fourth spot would be to se­cure a bonus-point vic­tory away to Glas­gow later that evening.

And that looks a huge task as their op­po­nents have plenty rest­ing on the game them­selves,

Glas­gow know a win would see them fin­ish above Mun­ster at the top of Con­fer­ence A, tak­ing them straight through to a home semi-fi­nal in the PRO14 ti­tle play-offs.

While Ed­in­burgh are cur­rently a point ahead of the Scar­lets in Con­fer­ence B, the Welsh team have a much su­pe­rior points dif­fer­ence.

They are cur­rently 23 ahead of the Scots on that count and are likely to stay in front with a game against the lowly Drag­ons to come on Satur­day week.

If the Scar­lets and Ed­in­burgh fin­ish the sea­son level on to­tal points and wins, it will come down to points dif­fer­ence.

So the Scots would need to equal what­ever the Scar­lets do in terms of match points to stay ahead of them, which looks a real tall or­der.

As such, Pi­vac’s team have a golden op­por­tu­nity of sal­vaging their sea­son by reach­ing a Cham­pi­ons Cup play-off.

If they get there, they will be away to who­ever comes out on top in the win­ner-takes-all Judge­ment Day clash be­tween the Ospreys and Cardiff Blues.

The fourth-placed side with most points in the reg­u­lar sea­son gets home ad­van­tage and that is bound to be one of the two Welsh sides in Con­fer­ence A.

So we could be head­ing to one almighty con­clu­sion to the sea­son in the shape of an all-Welsh play-off to de­cide our one rep­re­se­n­a­tive in the Cham­pi­ons Cup.

The Scar­lets did their bit to keep that pos­si­bil­ity alive by romp­ing to vic­tory over Ze­bre and pro­vide the per­fect home send-off for their de­part­ing coaches and play­ers.

It was con­firmed be­fore kick-off that de­fence coach By­ron Hayward would be leav­ing at the end of the sea­son.

And he is now ex­pected to join fel­low Scar­lets coaches Wayne Pi­vac and Stephen Jones in the Wales setup af­ter the 2019 World Cup.

There were pre­sen­ta­tions to all three men af­ter Satur­day’s game, with farewells also be­ing said to re­leased play­ers Will Boyde, David Bul­bring, Tom Price and De­clan Smith.

The Scar­lets led 14-0 at the break thanks to tries from Cassiem and cen­tre Hadleigh Parkes, with their dom­i­nant scrum giv­ing them a mighty plat­form.

Then man of the match Johnny McNi­choll dived in ac­ro­bat­i­cally for the third on the hour ahead of Cassiem’s clincher and late long range scores from Keiran Hardy and Ioan Ni­cholas.

Wales cen­tre Hadleigh Parkes runs in to score a try for the Scar­lets PIC­TURES: Huw Evans

Uzair Cassiem beats Leonard Kru­mov to score.

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