Scarlets have announced the signings of Scotland international Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and his fellow scrum-half Kieran Hardy in a double swoop.
The duo will help provide options at number nine, with Scarlets’ first-choice Gareth Davies a Wales regular and his understudy Aled Davies moving to the Ospreys this summer.
Hidalgo-Clyne, 24, joins from Edinburgh, while the 22-year-old Hardy – who came up through the youth ranks at Scarlets and made his professional debut for the region in 2014 – has been plying his trade for English Championship side Jersey.
Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac said: “We’re delighted to be in a position to welcome both Kieran and Sam to the Scarlets.
“Kieran makes a return to his home region having had a couple of seasons to continue his development in the Championship, with Sam bringing with him a wealth of Guinness PRO14 and international experience from Edinburgh.
“With Aled moving on and Gareth away during the international window it’s important to have strength in depth in each position.”
South African international Jaco Kriel will be reunited with former coach Johan Ackermann after signing for Premiership side Gloucester on Monday.
The 28-year-old – who captained Lions to successive Super Rugby finals – has not played since he sustained a shoulder injury against Australia last September.
The 11-time capped Springboks back-rower will be unavailable for several months after undergoing a second operation on the shoulder in March.
Despite this Gloucester’s director of rugby David Humphreys said he had been given assurances Kriel would be fit.
“Jaco’s record in his career so far speaks for itself, and he is a player that Johan rates very highly,” Humphreys told the club website.
“He will understand immediately what Johan expects from his players, and the style of play that we are trying to promote.
“Jaco was one of the leading players for the Lions during their development as a squad, and their drive to two Super Rugby finals, and has also been a real star in the Springbok jersey.”
Aside from the two Super Rugby finals – losing 20-3 to the Hurricanes in 2016 and then 25-17 to the Crusaders last year – Kriel also skippered the Golden Lions to Currie Cup success in 2015 when they were coached by Ackermann.
Richard Cockerill had talked up his team’s chances during the build-up, insisting his capital outfit could claim to be the best side in Scotland if they edged out Dave Rennie’s team in the best-of-three series.
And the Gunners head coach was vindicated as James Johnstone, Jordan lay and Duhan van der Merwe scored first-half tries to hand Edinburgh a 2-1 success.
DTH van der Merwe crossed over twice either side of Callum Gibbons’ try for the visitors but a late Duncan Weir penalty eventually put Edinburgh out of reach.
Ulster’s draw at Munster meant Edinburgh could kick-off with the relief of knowing both a play-off quarter-final slot as well as their place in next season’s Champions Cup had already been secured.
They face a trip to Limerick themselves next week but first and foremost they had their local squabble with Glasgow – already in the semi-finals having topped Conference A – to take care of.
Both sides were forced into a number of last-minute alterations to their starting line-ups but the disruptions did little to slow either down during a thrilling opening half.
Glasgow drew first blood 12 minutes in as Finn Russell’s cross kick found DTH Van der Merwe, with the Canada international barging past Dougie Fife to mark his 100th Warriors appearance with the opening try.
But the hosts hit back seven minutes later. Jaco van der Walt took Scott Cummings out of the equation as he scooped the ball off the ground to find Jamie Ritchie. With Glasgow’s defence opened up, Junior Rasolea spread wide to Johnstone who powered over the line.
Again the momentum swung back in Glasgow’s direction as Russell sent Nick Grigg scampering over the gain-line. George Horne provided support before Russell rejoined the attack, surging another 15 yards up field before laying off for Gibbons to finish after 22 minutes.
What a try!! 🏉— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) April 28, 2018
Callum Gibbins finishes off a flowing move for @GlasgowWarriors with some incredible hands against @EdinburghRugby 🙌
Catch it live now on @SkySports 📺#GUINNESSPRO14 pic.twitter.com/4SFOCXxk71
But it was Edinburgh who ended the half on top as they struck twice more.
Their pressure forced Glasgow to concede a penalty under their own posts. Cockerill’s men chose to take the scrum and got their reward as Lay eventually squeezed over from close-range.
Glasgow scrum-half George Horne then put his team in trouble as Ben Toolis charged down his from inside his own 22.
That mistake was then compounded as Warriors left a massive space in behind unguarded and they paid the price as Sam Hidalgo-Clyne’s clever kick sent Duhan Van Der Merwe in to score.
The second period was tighter but no less engrossing. Weir booted over a precious penalty to put clear daylight between the teams with 13 minutes left.
🚨 #GUINNESSPRO14 Final Series Fixtures Confirmed 🚨— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) April 28, 2018
👏 Well done @GlasgowWarriors @leinsterrugby @Munsterrugby @EdinburghRugby @CheetahsRugby @scarlets_rugby
👉 All the details https://t.co/O5YfGMDXVf pic.twitter.com/aqA4eVVJ4k
But Glasgow immediately put the squeeze back on. Replacement prop Siosiua Halanukonuka defied his bulk as he raced 40 yards up field and – with the Edinburgh defence at sixes and sevens – DTH van der Merwe dived over for his second touchdown.
He thought he had grabbed the winner soon after but was called back as referee Nigel Owens spotted a breakdown infringement in the build-up.
The PRO14 Final series fixtures are as follows:
PRO14 Semi-Final Qualifiers
Saturday, May 5
Munster Rugby v Edinburgh
Thomond Park, Limerick
Scarlets v Toyota Cheetahs
Parc Y Scarlets, Llanelli
Friday, May 18
Glasgow Warriors v Scarlets OR Toyota Cheetahs
Saturday, May 19
Leinster Rugby v Munster Rugby OR Edinburgh
RDS Arena, Dublin