SCARLETS' SEASON UP AND RUNNING
BEING labelled a soft touch up front is something the Scarlets have become used to over the years.
It is a tag that seems to be sewn into their jersey and one that has proven desperately difficult to remove.
"We are a bit annoyed we haven't had any credit over the last couple of seasons," said skipper Rob McCusker in the wake of Saturday's much-needed victory over Treviso — a win based on a dominant scrum platform.
"We have been out to places like Treviso, put in a good scrummaging performance and people have taken it as a given that we have had a hard time.
"Even when it comes to referees we feel in some matches there has been a perception even before the whistle has gone that we are going to have hard time in the scrum because of our perceived weakness there.
"We do feel a bit aggrieved and we use that as a motivation every time we train.
"We are trying to flip that on its head and trying to show we can be a dominant pack."
Of course, tough, attritional tests still await this season, but the manner in which the home eight demolished the Italian set-piece early on will surely go a long way to earning the respect the Scarlets forwards feel they are not being given at the moment.
In pre-season, they had Premiership side Gloucester under pressure at Kingsholm; against Leinster in week one, the Scarlets felt they had the edge at scrum-time; while on Saturday there was no doubt who was the superior force.
The two Scarlets tries, scored inside the opening 14 minutes, came via powerful scrummaging surges.
The first, with just two minutes on the clock, put the Treviso back row on their heels to allow scrum-half Gareth Davies to turn on the after-burners, sprint upfield and post an early contender for individual try of the season.
The second saw the Scarlets eight make an almighty mess of a Treviso put-in five yards out from their own line, with blindside flanker Aaron Shingler picking up and feeding Davies to touch down again.
While the laws have again changed over how the front rows engage, the philosophy of scrummaging remains as it always has — a strong scrum can win you matches, as Adam Jones proved for the Lions in Australia this summer.
"Treviso are proud of their scrum so that second try would have hurt them," said forwards coach Danny Wilson, now in his second season at Parc y Scarlets.
"When people talk about our scrum they seem to have dismissed a lot of last season — we scrummaged really well last season.
"We felt we took some big steps and against Gloucester in pre-season and in the first two league matches I feel we have had scrum dominance.
"I am not sure we were fully rewarded for that on Saturday.
"We didn't get a couple of penalties I felt we should have, but if we can start to create a weapon to go with some of the rugby we can play we should have a nice balance to our attack."
In 20-year-old tight-head Samson Lee, the Scarlets possess one of the most talented young props in the game and someone who the Welsh management must be eyeing up as a potential long-term successor for Jones.
Lee left the field just before the start of the second half after going down on his knees suffering from breathing difficulties.
Thankfully, he was okay afterwards.
On the other side of the scrum, and at the other side of the age spectrum, it was a memorable night for 32-year-old stalwart Phil John.
The local product produced one of his finest performances in his 15 seasons in a Scarlets jersey, doing a job on his opposite number at scrum time, while also carrying strongly and tracking back in defence to snuff out a Treviso attack late on. He was a popular choice as man of the match.
That accolade could have easily gone to centre Steve Shingler, whose dead-eyed goal-kicking enabled the Scarlets to keep the Italians at arms length throughout.
Shingler, back in Llanelli after two years at London Irish, hasn't missed a kick in two matches and his four second-half penalties ensured there would be no repeat of the previous week's second-half collapse against Leinster.
Treviso, feisty and short-tempered throughout, did threaten a comeback when scrum-half Tobias Botes gathered his own chip ahead to put wing Ludovico Nitaglia under the posts.
But with British Lion Jonathan Davies entering the fray for the final 19 minutes, the Scarlets were a far calmer, more composed outfit in the closing stages and were able to see out the win comfortably. "It was really pleasing," added Wilson afterwards.
"The boys talked about having better game management after Leinster and I thought they did that in the second half.
"We played a mature tactical game and credit to Rob McCusker and Rhys Priestland, that is what put them under pressure and kept us where we wanted to be.
"Last week, we faced up to the negative, which was the second-half performance.
We all said — players included — that it wasn't good enough.
"But we were pleased with our first-half performance and we knew if we could build on aspects of that first half we could come away with a good home win, which we did.
"It was a really important result for us."