The three Welsh regions more than ready for a break

Matt Sherratt, Dwayne Peel and Dai Flanagan have had difficult seasons
[Huw Evans Agency]

Ospreys will fly the flag for Wales in the United Rugby Championship (URC) play-offs.

The never-ending Welsh domestic rugby season will continue for at least another week after Toby Booth's side squeezed into the top eight with a 33-29 victory against Cardiff on Judgement Day.

The reward is a quarter-final visit to face defending champions Munster on Friday night in Limerick.

While Ospreys prepare for at least one more match, the other three Welsh professional have finished their campaigns.

Ospreys' tally of 14 victories in 24 matches is more than Cardiff, Dragons and Scarlets combined total of 13 wins in 66 games as the struggling trio finished in the bottom half of the URC table again.

So as they get ready for at least a five-week break before the start of pre-season, how do the sides who have finished reflect on what has been a testing campaign?

Cardiff rue narrow losses

Matt Sherratt talks to the Cardiff squad after defeat to Ospreys
Matt Sherratt is in his second coaching stint with Cardiff [Huw Evans Agency]

Following Dai Young's departure, Matt Sherratt was promoted to a head coach role for the first time in his professional career.

The results alone are pretty stark with four wins, 17 defeats and a draw in the 22 matches.

They finished 12th in the league, while a quartet of losses were suffered in a winless European Champions Cup campaign.

There were only two home wins against Stormers and Dragons, who they achieved the double over, and another away victory over a shadow Sharks side, with no triumphs against Irish, Scottish or Italian sides.

Cardiff have been involved in some narrow defeats with 14 bonus points collected.

"That really sums up our season," said Sherratt.

"Hopefully we can turn those into narrow wins next season."

Cardiff have managed to maintain a positive narrative and attracting healthy Arms Park crowds despite a win record of less than 20%.

Cardiff have only managed a combined total of eight appearances from British and Irish Lions duo Josh Adams and Taulupe Faletau.

Survival has been the key with Cardiff starting pre-season training almost 12 months ago with single figures of players because of financial constraints of the Welsh game and Wales' World Cup training camp.

"It has been 50 weeks and it has felt like 50 weeks. I have loved it though," said Sherratt.

"It has been trying to imprint what a blue and black game looks like on the field and be true to ourselves."

Cardiff are losing experience next season with Ellis Jenkins and Josh Turnbull retiring and Tomos Williams, Rhys Carre, Owen Lane, Willis Halaholo, Shane Lewis-Hughes and Lopeti Tomani moving on,

Recruitment includes the arrival of Wales fly-half Callum Sheedy with Sherratt looking to bring in some signings to help develop young players like Cameron Winnett, Alex Mann and Mackenzie Martin, who have been thrown in this season and been picked by Wales.

"We want to bring in three or four players and it will be people from good environments who can help our young talent," said Sherratt.

"I think we have something special here developing in terms of the amount of Cardiff boys playing for Cardiff. I am passionate about that.

"It has joined us up with the crowd and almost brought to life the Cardiff shirt again."

Scarlets look for patience

Dwayne Peel shows the skills of a former Wales and British and Irish Lions scrum-half
Dwayne Peel is a former Wales and British and Irish Lions scrum-half [Huw Evans Agency]

Scarlets managed one more league win than Cardiff and also achieved an early-season double over Sherratt's side, but still finished one place below them in 13th.

Five wins and 17 defeats is a worrying return for Dwayne Peel's side with a clean sweep of losses in the Challenge Cup, including a humiliating home reverse against Georgian side Black Lion.

Scarlets have not beaten any South African, Scottish and Irish sides, with two wins coming against Italian duo Benetton and Zebre.

At least the Scarlets finished the season with back-to-back wins including the 32-15 Judgement Day triumph against Dragons.

"We need a bit of patience," said Peel.

"I can understand fans' frustration because we have always been a team that has competed.

"There have been games we know we could and should have won, games we have not been good enough in, but also matches we have competed hard."

Head coach Peel will be assisted next season by a new director of rugby.

Scarlets have lost a lot of experience with Ken Owens retiring and Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Kieran Hardy and Wyn Jones leaving, while captain Josh Macleod has missed most of the season through injury.

"We have finished the season with a lot of young boys playing and we are losing a lot of experience," said Peel.

"As a staff we knew this time was coming.

"That is the future for us and we need to embrace it. We have seen a shift in mindset and there has been growth in the young boys.

"I will keep banging the drum this is a big club and has been for a long time. We want to compete and have got some good talent coming through."

Same old season for Dragons

Dai Flanagan used to be part of the Scarlets coaching set-up
Dai Flanagan used to be part of the Scarlets coaching set-up [Huw Evans Agency]

A return of four wins and 18 defeats in 22 matches and a 15th league place finish is a familiar tale of woe for Dragons.

There has been no win away from Rodney Parade and no victories against opposition from Scotland, Ireland or South Africa.

"I am very glad it's over," said Dragons head coach Dai Flanagan.

"There are games we should have won, games we got battered in and sometimes we have to say we were not good enough to win them.

"I am proud of some things we have achieved and bitterly disappointed in other things."

Flanagan has been reshaping his coaching structure and brought in former Ospreys and New Zealand number eight Filo Tiatia as well some signings associated with power.

"There is going to be more expectation on the group to perform and there will be no excuses," said Flanagan.

"The extra leadership is critical for me. If you look at the season one thing I am proud of is we have rebuilt and restructured a club while cutting.

"I am not sure how many other head coaches in the world have been tasked with that while also being head coach of the team.

More signings will follow with fly-half the most pressing priority after Sam Davies and JJ Hanrahan left the side last season.

Will Reed has played most of the games following injuries to Angus O'Brien and Cai Evans.

"I have been disappointed with how the team has performed on the pitch," said Flanagan.

"I have to give that my full attention going into the summer."