Wayne Pivac is in danger of leaving the Scarlets on a low note after admitting they served up their worst display in his five years in charge as they were hammered by the Cardiff Blues.
Pivac – who is leaving at the end of the season to prepare to take charge of Wales after the World Cup – is in familiar territory for many coaches whose next job is announced long before they leave their current one.
No matter what they utter in public about maintaining their focus until the last goodbye, they are often undermined by players who decide the king is dead, long live the next one.
After the Blues had thumped a disorganised and demoralised Scarlets 41-17 atvthe Arms Park last night, Pivac conceded: “Going in at half-time, it was probably the most disappointing 40 minutes in the five years I have been here.
“That was discussed at half-time, we made changes and those boys made an impact. I thought in the second half we played the way we wanted to from the first whistle, but the game was over by half-time.”
At that interval stage, the Blues led 38-0. They had played well and at a pace the Scarlets failed to slow, but they were assisted by a worrying lack of appetite from Pivac’s men.
That lack of fight and desire clearly concerns Pivac as the New Zealander attempts to guide his team into the Guinness Pro 14 play-offs for the final time.
“We had spoken about being disciplined, about being physical, making our tackles, but we didn’t do that and at this level of the game you are going to concede points.”
With Edinburgh beating defending champions Leinster at Murrayfield, the Scarlets have dropped to fifth in the Conference B table, but Benetton’s loss to Connacht in Galway means there is still all to play for in the battle for a top-three spot.
“We have three games left, two at home (Edinburgh and Zebre) and one at a neutral venue (Dragons on Judgement Day). We have got to focus on getting as many of those 15 points on offer as we can,” added Pivac.
“There are some games involving other sides that are hard to call, but we can only worry about our performances and make sure that we produce that second-half performance over 80 minutes.
“We are really disappointed with that first half after two reasonable performances against Cheetahs and Munster. But we can’t turn that around now, we have got to work hard and make sure it doesn’t happen again this season.”
For Blues coach John Mulvihill, the result was a significant step to not only securing his own region’s play-off place, but also enabling him to claim he has led his team to the top ranking among the four Welsh regions.
A Pro14 title – something the Blues have never achieved – would help give substance to that claim, but the Australian was entitled to be pleased with his team’s progress.
Mulvihill said: “The first half was outstanding considering there were a few early jitters. I had this feeling all week that it was either going to be really tight or we would blow them off the park.
“I knew with the way we have so many attacking threats that if we use the ball properly and get a good stream of lineout ball, we would be hard to stop.
“This is what this team is about. We could have kicked the ball out after the 42 minute and gone in for half-time but we went for the try and a kick-pass to the side. It was a pretty complete first half.”
“The first thing I wanted was a team that can be number one in Wales, we’ve done the double over the Scarlets and Dragons and now we need to beat the Ospreys at home.
“Our second thing as a group is to play finals rugby and be better than last season where we finished fourth. For us to finish third would justify the improvements we have mad.
“We always knew that three from four wins would get us there and now we have three to play.
“Connacht won with the last few minutes to get their bonus-point and they are probably four or so points above us on points difference. That’s how close it is but that shows how good this competition is.
“Destiny is in our hands and we will just worry about what we can do and not Connacht. They have a few tough games, so do we and it will probably come down to how we go in Galway.”
The Blues overcame the early loss of Wales flanker Josh Navidi to notch up a comprehensive victory.
Navidi departed in the second minute with what appeared to be a serious elbow injury but it did not stop a rampant Cardiff, who ran in five first-half tries.
Aled Summerhill and Owen Lane each scored two, Josh Turnbull the other, with Gareth Anscombe converting all five and adding two penalties.
Rob Evans scored two tries for Scarlets with Ioan Nicholas also crossing. Leigh Halfpenny converted one.