Welsh Pro14 derbies: What's at stake on New Year's Eve

Scarlets players take a wet lap of honour in torrential rain after beating Ospreys on Boxing Day
Champions Scarlets will end 2017 as Wales' top region in the Pro14

Welsh domestic rugby says goodbye to 2017 with a final round of holiday derbies on New Year's Eve.

The matches ring out the old year which saw a Welsh team win the title for the first time in five seasons, but others struggled.

Champions Scarlets go into the games top of Conference A with none of the other three regions in a play-off position.

Here is a quick look at what's at stake and a reflection on 2017 for Cardiff Blues, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets.

Pro14: Dragons v Ospreys
Venue: Rodney Parade, Newport Date: Sunday 31 December Kick-off: 17.35 GMT
Coverage: Live on S4C, updates on BBC Sport website and app

When the fixtures were announced in the summer you would have had long odds against Dragons having more league points than their visitors going into this match.

Ospreys' loss of form in 2017 has been calamitous, and their fans, players and no doubt management are likely to be glad to see the year end.

To put it in perspective, in March the Swansea-based region went to Treviso looking to maintain their hopes of a home draw in the Pro12 semi-finals.

They lost 13-5 and have won only three times in the league since.

Rhys Webb passes the ball for Ospreys against Scarlets
Wales international Rhys Webb is leaving Ospreys at the end of the season along with fly-half Dan Biggar

Swansea City have won more matches (four) in the Premier League this season than Ospreys have (two) in the Pro14 - and look at the headlines and upheaval there.

Ospreys are bottom of their table - Conference A in the new Pro14 - and their chances of a play-off place are remote as they trail third-placed Cheetahs by 17 points.

Their failure to beat a Scarlets team who played with 14 men for 43 minutes on Boxing Day was symptomatic of a team low on confidence and firepower, even allowing for the home team's astute organisation and the shocking weather conditions.

Steve Tandy's side need a win badly.

The same is true of Dragons, whose upheavals off the field in 2017 make Ospreys on-pitch travails look routine.

Bought by the Welsh Rugby Union, a new pitch installed and a new coach - Bernard Jackman - in charge, the future looks bright.

The Boxing Day defeat by Cardiff Blues suggests we are likely to have to reserve judgement on their on-field prospects until 2018-19 when the signings - led by the arrival of British and Irish Lions Ross Moriarty and Richard Hibbard - kick-in properly.

In the meantime Jackman's pragmatic approach, prioritising home games by picking inexperienced sides for difficult away ties, points at a new, hard-headed approach.

The whole of Welsh rugby - and the other regions especially - will be interested observers as the WRU's control and the influence of newly-appointed executive chairman David Buttress plays out in 2018.

Beating the Ospreys for the first time in 13 meetings would underline the message that the Dragons are no longer prepared to be the also-rans.

  • KEY FACT: The Ospreys have lost their last 10 away games, their longest run without a win away from home in the PRO14; only the Dragons (L29) are currently on a longer run without an away win in the Championship.
Pro14: Cardiff Blues v Scarlets
Venue: Arms Park, Cardiff Date: Sunday 31 December Kick-off: 15.15 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC 2 Wales,, BBC Sport website and app

Scarlets have managed to stay top of Conference B without hitting the heights that marked their drive to the title at the end of the 2016-17 season.

Despite a crop of injuries to key players, notably internationals Jonathan Davies, lock Jake Ball and prop Samson Lee, Wayne Pivac's team have won nine of their 11 league games - losing only away to Ulster and Cheetahs.

They beat Blues 30-17 at home in October and another win would bring the curtain down on a memorable year for the region when they have been comfortably the best of the Welsh regions.

Rey Lee-Lo hugs Gareth Anscombe after Blues' win over Dragons on Boxing Day
Rey Lee-Lo (r) has signed a new contract to keep him at Cardiff Arms Park

Among all the plaudits their free-running style has attracted it is easy to overlook the steely edge and organisation which have also characterised their displays in 2017 - beating Leinster AND Ospreys with 14 men is not down to luck.

Only their European form has let them down in what royalty might call an "annus mirablis" - or a cracking year, in local parlance.

With head coach Danny Wilson leaving at the end of the season Blues are another region in a state of flux.

2017 has seen them have embryonic talks with the WRU about a financial bail out which came to nothing and draw up a list of potential replacements for Wilson without announcing who will take over in the summer.

Beat Scarlets, and Blues could end up close to a play-off place and they would have taken that at the start of the season.

It would also mean six points from the holiday derbies and end a run of three consecutive defeats against Scarlets.

With the defending champions making eight changes from the win over Ospreys and Pivac resting players over his concerns surrounding Cardiff Arms Park's artificial pitch, they could be in with a chance.

  • KEY FACT: Scarlets have won their last six games against their fellow regions, scoring 18 tries and conceding just six in that run.

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