A superb individual performance by makeshift centre Nicky Thomas helped Swansea to an entertaining victory over local rivals Llanelli at Stradey Park. With four players in the Swansea backline out of position, the Whites were up against the odds from the start but came through with superb resilience to record an impressive win and extent a victorious league record to six in a row.
Swansea took the lead after only seven minutes when the home side killed the ball. Nicky Thomas was successful with the penalty. An excellent run by acting fly half David Watts was well supported by Ben Lewis, but Richard Hibbard was unable to take the scoring pass and knocked on over the line.
Martin Roberts scored the game’s opening try after 17 minutes after he broke clear of the defence and dummied his way over the line. Nicky Thomas converted. Marc Popham failed to roll away in the tackle and gifted Llanelli a penalty with Rhys Priestland adding the three points.
The fly half was successful with a second penalty soon after when the Swansea defence killed a promising attack. The visitors’ second try arrived after 33 minutes and will go down as one of the scores of the season after captain Steffan Edwards took a routine lineout ball, before excellent handling by Roberts and Richard Payne sent Nicky Thomas on a spectacular run where he wrong footed three tacklers to finish clinically from 30 metres. He converted his own try.
On the stroke of half time, Llanelli came right back into the match after Michael Collins missed a tackle and allowed in Daniel Gravell for a score which Priestland converted. Roberts was yellow carded for foul play during the build up.
Half-Time:- Llanelli 13 Swansea 17
The second half began at a slow pace with no real scoring chances until the 56th minute when Nicky Jones almost broke clear down the wing, but his pass to the supporting Leigh Bevan was forward. Nicky Thomas kicked another penalty for the visitors soon after as Bevan embarked on a pacy run through the middle only for Llanelli to be penalised for holding back a support runner.
Llanelli tied the scores after a superb break through the middle by Morgan Stoddart set up Quintin Snyman for a well taken try. Priestland converted. The fly half missed a chance to take the home side into the lead with a penalty after Swansea killed the ball.
The outstanding Nicky Thomas came up with another moment of brilliance to retake the lead for Swansea as he put over a superb drop goal despite being on the back foot. Nicky Jones made a strong break down the wing and managed to chip infield as he was tackled which would have resulted in an almost certain score for Lewis but he was tackled without the ball giving referee Huw David no option but to award a penalty try. Nicky Thomas converted.
Llanelli refused to lay down and a further Priestland penalty goal brought them back to within a seven point deficit. However Llanelli were unable to stave off a Swansea attack and killed the ball with Nicky Thomas converting the penalty. Man of the match Thomas put the game beyond doubt two minutes from time, extending his personal tally to 26 with a penalty after the Llanelli defence crept offside.
Swansea’s victory takes them up to sixth position in the table, their highest position since early autumn. The Whites side put together a thrilling display of rugby with the skilful Nicky Thomas at the forefront of the good work. It was certainly a fine way to cap off coach Anthony Clement’s final West Wales derby match! With two matches remaining, it is still possible for Swansea to reach the top five but they will need other results to go in their favour.
Full-Time:- Llanelli 23 Swansea 36
Venue:- Stradey Park, Llanelli
Weather:- Sunny, 18C
Referee:- Huw David
Competition:- Principality Premiership
Llanelli Scorers:- Priestland (3 Pens, 2 Cons), Gravell (Try), Snyman (Try)
Swansea Scorers:- Nicky Thomas (4 Pens, 3 Cons, Try, DG), Roberts (Try), Pen Try
Swansea Team:- 15 L. Bevan 14 J. Hooper 13 Nicky Thomas 12 R. Payne 11 N. Jones 10 D. Watts 9 M. Roberts (rep: D. Pittard) 1 L. May (rep: C. Williams) 2 R. Hibbard (rep: D. Colclough) 3 C. Mitchell 4 I. Evans 5 M. Collins 6 M. Popham (rep: D. Blyth) 7 B. Lewis 8 S. Edwards
By Paul Hopkins