The results are back
Under Wayne Pivac, Scarlets fans were getting used to being the top Welsh region. In his final season, an injury crisis that was brutal even by modern standards struck and Scarlets were reduced to finishing behind regional rivals Ospreys and Cardiff Blues, missing out on the top tier European competition for the first time in their history.
This season, despite missing fifteen internationals away at the World Cup (many of whom returned injured), they have already picked up five wins – half of last season’s total. A heavy defeat away to Ulster in the Pro14 might have caused more alarm had not nine players been away again with Wales and another 13 still injured, including Gareth Davies, the influential brothers James and Jonathan Davies, props Wyn Jones and Samson Lee, Rhys Patchell, and Aaron Shingler.
A crucial victory away in Bayonne to keep Scarlets hopes alive in the Challenge Cup won’t have done Mooar any harm either. As Cardiff Blues have proved, even Europe’s second tier competition has its charms if you win it.
He’s getting the best out of Steff Evans again
The Scarlets wing’s struggles last season seemed, in many ways, to reflect that of the wider club. He was regularly left to play for Scarlets A to work on his defence and only managed four starts in the league all season, despite injuries biting into the regions’ squad depth. In his absence, the side frequently seemed to miss his attacking spark and their defence was regularly an issue anyway.
This season, he seems to be back to his exciting best. As Evans prepared to lead the side out for his one hundredth regional cap against Toyota Cheetahs, Mooar said, “Steff has been outstanding this season. It’s there for all to see. You can see a real spark, a spring in his step and a smile on his face.”
He also made clear his belief that Evans deserves these rewards, adding, “But what people don’t see is the work and input that he has behind the scenes in team meetings and with other players and how he is continuing to grow himself and helping to grow others. It has been a real pleasure to work with him.”
Evans is very popular with the local fans for his twinkle-toed interventions and his return to form, as well as the vocal backing by the new coach, is a big factor in the current positive feeling towards Mooar. If he can keep it up, fans will start dreaming of another tilt towards the Pro14 title.
He’s put his trust in the wider squad
Evans isn’t the only one who has been making an impression while the big name players were away at the Rugby World Cup. Mooar put his faith in Steff Hughes, long a local favourite, as joint vice-captain of the squad, while captain Ken Owens, and fellow vice-captains the Davies brothers have been away. He has been rewarded with a series of steady performances and displays of leadership as captain, supported by Werner Kruger, the final vice-captain.
Elsewhere, Corey Baldwin and Dan Jones have reminded fans what they can do, Taylor Davies and Jac Morgan have emerged as potential stars, and Kieran Hardy is having a fantastic start to the season. Blade Thomson seems to have put his World Cup disappointment behind him and Josh Macleod continues to put in a shift every week with impressive consistency. Uzair Cassiem, meanwhile, has emerged as a fan favourite on and off the field, enthusiastically engaging with fans before and after his outstanding performances on the field.
Given how many Scarlets players remain injured after the World Cup, and with the Six Nations looming, Mooar’s ability to get the most out of the whole squad bodes well going forward.
— Scarlets Rugby (@scarlets_rugby) December 7, 2019
He’s balancing flair with pragmatism
The all-court game that Scarlets seek to play is always a little vulnerable to weather and savvy opponents. From the start, Mooar has emphasised his commitment to playing a flair game and has spoken approvingly after games of his players’ desire to play but he has also spoken regularly about playing smart.
Five of Scarlets ten games so far have been within five points (four wins, one last minute loss) and, with the weather getting worse before it gets better, Mooar is right to highlight the need to keep the scoreboard ticking over as well as playing positively. The return of reliable goalkicker Leigh Halfpenny allowed Scarlets to pull away against Bayonne, with the Welsh international kicking four penalties and a conversion to guarantee Scarlets a win.
That said, Scarlets fans are used to a certain attacking style and Mooar has made clear he is not only aware of that but keen to continue the traditions. If he can find a way to maintain a thrilling attacking game while adopting a more streetwise approach when needed, he is going to remain very highly thought of.
He’s engaging the fans
When Mooar was announced, Scarlets general manager Jon Daniels said, “Throughout the process we have been hugely impressed with Brad’s appreciation of Scarlets’ place in the community, his passion for developing players and the research he had done on our heritage.”
A message to our fans in Toulon #thankyou
— Scarlets Rugby (@scarlets_rugby) November 24, 2019
And, from the off, Mooar has made sure fans understand he really is aware of Scarlets’ culture and history. From his introductory greeting, when he mentioned knowing, “the Carwyn James, Phil Bennetts, the Delme Thomases, the Quinnells, Ken Owens, Foxy” to his video personally thanking fans for their support, shot against the backdrop of west Wales and referencing the travelling support’s rendition of Sospan Fach, it’s clear Mooar has done his homework.
Watch: Chiefs hooker forced into early retirement
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now