Play-off race will go to the wire, says Scarlets coach Simon Easterby
SCARLETS head coach Simon Easterby expects the race to reach the RaboDirect Pro12 play-offs to go "right down to the wire".
The Llanelli region beat Connacht 25-15 on Friday to reclaim their place in the top four, only to drop back down to fifth when Glasgow won at Zebre yesterday.
There are now only five points between second and sixth place in the Pro12 table, with just eight fixtures left in the season.
The Scarlets have missed out on the play-offs by agonisingly narrow margins in recent seasons, finishing fifth in both the last campaigns.
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But as the battle to reach the top four intensifies, Easterby is hopeful the Scarlets' victory over Connacht can generate some much-needed momentum for their run-in.
"It's going to right down to the wire," he said.
"Ulster are ahead by a fair bit. Sides might claw them back if they lose a couple of games, but we've just got to concentrate on ourselves.
"We have to keep moving forward and take all the points we can. There are eight games left until the semi-finals and we've got a good run-in, so let's hope we can use that to our advantage.
"There will be a few teams who could have a bearing on it. It could be a bit of a shootout for those top four spots, which is great for the league."
Friday's win was the Scarlets' first in the Pro12 since December, though their hopes of claiming a victory did not look particularly strong after the opening 30 seconds.
Connacht claimed their first try of the evening inside the first minute as a Dan Parks cross-kick found Danie Poolman, but Easterby's men fought back to secure what was ultimately a comfortable victory thanks to six Owen Williams penalties and a try from Joe Snyman.
"It was all about getting back to winning ways and building towards the next four weeks," said Easterby.
"It wasn't pretty at times and we had to work hard. We gave them an early try but, to be fair to the lads, they managed the game well and took the game away from them.
"Goal kicking was excellent again and, when you're hitting 80 per cent plus, you can sometimes afford not to be taking some opportunities.
"It was a good workmanlike performance. It wasn't pretty and we are disappointed with a few areas but, on the whole, we're happy with the result."
The Scarlets' next assignment is a home clash against fellow play-off contenders Munster on Saturday.
In November's corresponding fixture at Musgrave Park, the Scarlets claimed a famous 13-6 win, and Easterby has warned his side they must improve if they are to do the double over the Irish giants.
"We know we have to be much better when we take on Munster next week," he said.
"We have an opportunity next week to take points off a side in a similar position to us. We have to be much better than we were against Connacht, but we can take lots of positives and also be harsh from a good win. It's eight games left and hopefully we can keep building momentum."