Pro14 European Champions Cup play-off: Ospreys 21-10 Scarlets

Ospreys third try
Ospreys and Scarlets were in talks about merging the regions just two months ago
Champions Cup qualification play-off
Ospreys (14) 21
Tries: North, Cracknell, Dirksen Cons: S Davies 2, Price
Scarlets (10) 10
Tries: J Davies Cons: Halfpenny Pen: Halfpenny

Ospreys secured the sole Wales Champions Cup place for next season by defeating Scarlets 21-10 in the Pro14 play-off match at the Liberty Stadium.

Wing George North, flanker Olly Cracknell and replacement Hanno Dirksen scored tries to seal the spot in Europe's elite tournament.

Scarlets could only respond with a try from Wales centre Jonathan Davies.

Wayne Pivac suffered defeat in his final game as Scarlets coach before succeeding Wales boss Warren Gatland.

It is the first time the Scarlets have failed to qualify for Europe's top competition since the inception of regional rugby in 2003 and they will now play in the Challenge Cup next season.

Scarlets were hampered by the absence of injured Wales props Rob Evans and Samson Lee and flankers Aaron Shingler and James Davies.

Ospreys fans will be hoping Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones is still at the Liberty Stadium next season and this 238th appearance for the region is not his last with his current contract up after the World Cup in Japan.

His successor as Ospreys captain Justin Tipuric was outstanding in victory, while Wales centre Owen Watkin was named man-of-the-match after an impressive attacking display in front of a crowd of 8,459.

Ospreys and Scarlets finished fourth in their respective conferences to ensure they would battle it out for the final Pro14 Champions Cup spot.

Ospreys had the momentum coming into the fixture with four victories at the end of the regular season and that was evident in the opening exchanges.

Watkin made a searing break and released wing Keelan Giles who appeared set to score but was denied by a brilliant Leigh Halfpenny covering tackle.

This just temporarily delayed the Ospreys momentum and a flowing move resulted in a try for wing North which Sam Davies converted.

Scarlets responded with a Halfpenny penalty before Cracknell scored a second try after a superb counter-attack from full-back Dan Evans who latched onto a loose kick from Ioan Nicholas.

Ospreys replacement wing Dirksen was yellow-carded for taking out Johnny McNicholl in the air with television match official Ian Davies guiding referee Ben Whitehouse on the decision.

Scarlets utilised their numerical supremacy immediately as McNicholl set up a try for Wales centre Davies. Halfpenny converted from the touchline as Ospreys led 14-10 at the interval.

After an entertaining first period, it proved a poor second-half as both sides realised what was at stake before Ospreys finally rose above the mediocrity with a late well-worked try for Dirksen.

Replacement Luke Price converted to complete the scoring and ensure Ospreys will be among the European elite next season.

Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke: "It actually feels like job done and we are not over elated but delighted to be in the Champions Cup for everyone associated with the Ospreys and it's important for us.

"We started well and played some excellent rugby and got supremacy as the game went on.

"I felt we dominated the game, our physical presence and forward effort was excellent."

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac: "There were big moments in the game but we did not take those opportunities.

"We came here to try and win it and secure that position in the top flight of Europe which both teams were desperately after.

"We worked hard for 80 minutes but were not clinical enough at key moments and they were. Sometimes you are not good enough on the day and come up against a side who deserved to win."

Ospreys: Dan Evans; George North, Cory Allen, Owen Watkin, Keelan Giles; Sam Davies, Aled Davies; Nicky Smith, Scott Baldwin, Tom Botha, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Olly Cracknell, Justin Tipuric (capt), Dan Lydiate.

Replacements: Sam Parry, Rhodri Jones, Ma'afu Fia, Bradley Davies, Sam Cross, Matthew Aubrey, Luke Price, Hanno Dirksen.

Scarlets: Leigh Halfpenny; Johnny McNicholl, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Ioan Nicholas; Dan Jones, Gareth Davies; Phil Price, Ken Owens (capt), Werner Kruger, Jake Ball, Steve Cummins, Josh Macleod, Will Boyde, Blade Thomson.

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Simon Gardiner, David Bulbring, Uzair Cassiem, Kieran Hardy, Rhys Patchell, Paul Asquith.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)

Assistant referees: Nigel Owens, Dan Jones (WRU)

TMO: Ian Davies (WRU)

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