By Robin Davey
Never let it be said, but all is not lost in Welsh regional rugby as we reach the halfway point of the season.
More often than not the Welsh sides are out of the running for European glory by the end of the pool stages. And it’s only West Wales duo the Ospreys and Scarlets who have really carried the flag in what was the Pro 12, now Pro 14.
But this time around far from the Welsh teams being in the doldrums and in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons it’s the English clubs who are having something of a nightmare.
The third round of pool matches turned out to be a disaster for them with all seven teams in Europe being beaten, mainly by opponents from the much maligned Pro 14.
Champions Saracens especially suffered, snow causing the postponement of their match against Clermont heralding the farcical decision to play the match a day later without the opposition being consulted by the governing body then told to play it behind closed doors for safety reasons before finally relenting.
And when the game did get underway Saracens were smashed on their own ground, though they did fare a lot better in the return in France last weekend.
While the English clubs suffered the Welsh teams prospered in a complete reversal of fortunes. The Scarlets and the Ospreys both triumphed in the Champions Cup, with the Ospreys completing a notable double over Northampton.
They lie second in Pool Two, five points behind Clermont but two ahead of the Saracens, pretty commendable in view of their awful start to the season and indicative of better fortunes in the second half of the season.
The Scarlets also have a chance of progressing, lying third in Pool Five, but only a point behind Bath and Toulon. All to play for then.
In the Challenge Cup Cardiff Blues avenged their heavy defeat at the hands of Sale and and sit on top of Pool Two on 13 points which is four more than Lyon and five ahead of Toulouse.
The Dragons aren’t out of it either though they can’t afford any more slip-ups after losing twice against Newcastle, the second a little unluckily at Rodney Parade last Friday. They now need to achieve the double over Bordeaux, a pretty difficult task it has to be admitted.
In the Pro 14 the Scarlets are leading the way, sitting on top in Conference B with eight wins from their ten games, putting them on 40 points, three ahead of Leinster.
In the same pool the Dragons are well down the list, lying just one off the bottom with only two wins from nine, though a massive injury list and their development from a low base under the new regime are contributing factors.
In Conference A Cardiff Blues are in fourth spot having won four of their ten matches while the Ospreys are bottom of the table after their disastrous run, a massive 29 points behind Glasgow.
Injuries and a bad run of form in the league have resulted in them propping up the table, but more recent form in Europe especially shows a revival is on the cards.
So while the English clubs fret over their poor performances in Europe, the Welsh regions are in a far healthier position. Now it’s rare if not even unique that we can say that.
Reasons to be cheerful then at Christmastime. Time will tell whether it lasts!