Welsh rugby winners and losers as youngster ‘a sight to behold’ and rumors of Rhys Patchell are real concern

The Champions Cup group stages came to a close this weekend, with the Scarlets and Ospreys suffering heavy defeats.

Cardiff saw their Champions Cup clash with Toulouse cancelled, causing the French rugby bosses to explode with anger.

So another standard weekend.

These are the winners and losers…

WINNERS

Ryan Conbeer

There was a run in the first half of Scarlets’ confrontation with Bristol when the away side spilled the ball forward on Scarlets’ try-line.

In a flash Ryan Conbeer was already outside his own 22 – limping halfway to Swansea as he threatened to go from coast to coast. It summed up what makes the Scarlets winger so exciting to watch.

Conbeer has an amazing quality. He doesn’t deviate so much, just shifts his body position and momentum a bit, dodging and dodging tacklers without losing speed.

It is a joy to see. You know, that’s why he’s got the beating of pretty much everyone for him at any given moment.

The fact that the 22-year-old at Parc y Scarlets isn’t a regular starter on the wing could have to do with fitness, air or defensive concerns – those are the usual tropes for young, exciting wingers. The latter was answered with a stunning cover tackle when Bristol had numbers.

Dwayne Peel chose him as the standout artist on Saturday night. The hope now is that he gets regular minutes to build on a dazzling display.

Harry Deaves

There were few lights in the Ospreys’ European defeat to Sale over the weekend.

Toby Booth’s mix-and-match side was muscled and outplayed by the English outfit as their miserable European campaign drew to a close.

However, there was one consolation for the supporters: the appearance of debutant flanker, Harri Deaves.

In his first appearance as a senior, the Wales U20s starred openside in a losing cause – he crossed for a try while taking his chance with both hands.

In a weekend that saw social media sway over the suggestion that no promising young players are coming to Wales, Deaves’ emergence is a timely reminder that it’s not all bad.

Rhys Patchell

It’s been a while since Rhys Patchell started a game for the Scarlets after a few nightmarish years with injuries.

But back in the 10th jersey, the Wales fly-half proved that the Scarlets are just another side with him leading the show.

Stylish throughout, his streak of passes and intent to go hard to the line helped the Scarlets rediscover some attacking flair that has often looked blunt since its free-spirited heyday around 2018.

Working with Scott Williams, he made sure the Scarlets found the edge time and again – by providing space for their strike-runners to create trouble for Pat Lam’s side.

There was a strange defensive mishap, but he ended the procedure with far more pros than cons.

Recent rumors of a move across the border are a concern. The Scarlets are infinitely better with Patchell by their side.

The welcome return of fans

Okay, so Scarlets fans might not feel too grateful after seeing 52 points from their sideship.

But for the first time since October, supporters were present at Parc y Scarlets.

About 7,000 attended to cheer for Dwayne Peel’s side as a welcome boost to Welsh rugby.

It has not been easy in recent weeks as regions have been pushed back behind closed doors. They needed this.

LOSERS

Hugh Hogan

The former Leinster coach came out of Ireland with much credit last summer, tasked with bolstering a Scarlets rear that had gone awry without a de facto defense coach.

Clearly he has a job on his hands.

Rugby statistician Russ Petty pointed out that in the last three European games the Scarlets have scored 57 points at home to Sale, 45 away to Bordeaux and now 52 points at home to Bristol.

Anyone who watched the game in Bristol would at least admit that Saturday night was a very different performance from last season’s lukewarm low against Sale, but the simple fact is that the points came too easily for Bristol.

Scarlets’ entire defense was just too easy to tear down.

Is that a system problem? Individual error? Or even the lack of minutes the West-Walians have played in recent months?

That’s up to Hogan to decide — and fast.

Ospreys attack

It’s hardly a new problem, but again, the Ospreys’ attack turned out to be more than just a little blunt.

Selling out is hardly the competition to judge their performance with the ball in hand, given the number of missing players, but the same inaccuracies and flaws plagued them.

It’s a constant that can be obscured in some games when their set piece fires. But if they are muscular – as was the case on Saturday – it is clear that they are not bidding enough behind the scrum.

Contrasting reactions to European injustice

Some people may look at the French reaction to the cancellation of the Toulouse-Cardiff duel and find it a bit over the top.

Sure, it might be a bit of an exaggeration to allow the French sports minister to wade in – especially when other French parties haven’t received the same support.

And the irony of the match cancellation, which actually left Toulouse with an easier draw in the knockout round, is not lost on some.

In a chaotic campaign where virtually all clubs can probably claim they’ve had a rough time, the backbone French rugby as a whole has shown in the face of a perceived injustice is, to say the least, admirable.

The regions of Welsh rugby have all made a difficult decision in one way or another. While they didn’t exactly have to threaten a day in court, perhaps more could have been done on their side.

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