By: Paul Hopkins
Llanelli took the spoils against old rivals Swansea in a pulsating Boxing Day derby, which at times threatened to boil over.
There was a nice gesture immediately before the match when Swansea centre David Watts and Llanelli lock Adam Powell, playing their respective 250th and 300th games for their clubs, were given a guard of honour onto the pitch by both squads. But that’s where the niceties ended.
It was the All Whites who looked the sharper team inside the opening 10 minutes. Flanker Jon Vaughan made a burst through the middle, finding fly half Jac Wilson in support and then prop Tom Sloane took the ball into contact, forcing the visitors offside at the ruck. Wilson duly converted the penalty.
Two minutes later Llanelli took the lead against the run of play when winger Matthew Brewer made an initial break on the wing, drawing in three Swansea defenders, before he offloaded to number eight Jack Condy. He created a platform for the visitors to spin the ball out wide to Brewer, who used his pace to score a well taken try. Fly half Ioan Hughes converted.
The Whites looked set to retake the lead when scrum half Martin Luckwell took a quick tap penalty and found centre Ryan Evans, who made ground inside the twenty-two. Winger Andrew Claypole was held up a metre short of the whitewash, but lock Jay Williams lost the ball forward over the line.
When a Llanelli attack broke down full back Josh Jones intercepted a pass and sprinted down the wing. He threw a loose pass back into midfield and the bounce favoured winger Richard Williams, who greatly picked it up to score. Wilson missed the conversion.
The visitors were back on the attack through Brewer and Condy, with flanker Tom Phillips driving up to the twenty-two. However a ruck formed and Condy was warned by referee Aled Evans for overzealous use of the boot, despite cries of a red card from the home supporters.
Inevitably it was the lively Condy who claimed try number two for Llanelli when he was driven over the line by a powerful maul. Hughes missed the conversion.
Three minutes later the visitors scored another try when winger Ryan Conbeer intercepted a pass inside his own twenty-two, before racing downfield to score. The chasing Whites’ winger Richard Williams was shown a yellow card for needlessly diving onto Conbeer after he had scored. Hughes converted.
A mass brawl ensued when Powell made a high and dangerous tackle, but although many punches were thrown, it was only Powell who was given his marching orders for ten minutes.
Swansea had the final chance of the half when lock Tudor Hughes caught a lineout and his pack remained patient to set up an attacking platform. However, Watts was unable to take the pass and lost possession forward.
Half-time:- Swansea 8 Llanelli 17
The All Whites signalled their intent to get back into the derby immediately after the interval when the pack forced their counterparts upwards at a scrum. Wilson kicked the resulting penalty goal.
Then Ryan Evans made a half break over the twenty-two and found Sloane in support. Hughes rampaged towards the line, and had Watts on his shoulder, but the centre was stopped inches short of the line.
It was Llanelli’s turn to inflict damage at the scrum and Hughes opted to kick to the corner from the penalty. Centre Johnny Lewis took a crash ball, but lock Ed Curtis lost possession forward at the breakdown.
The Whites then secured a turnover and replacements Jon Fox and Jedd Evans powered forward, with flanker Jack Perkins in support to create an overlap out wide, which Hughes exploited to score. Wilson missed his conversion and the chance to kick his side ahead.
Llanelli were soon back on the attack and a powerful scrum earned them another penalty. Hughes again kicked to the corner and flanker Nathan Hart collected lineout ball to start a maul. The visitors got the ball out to Lewis and the Swansea defence were penalised for offside at the ruck. Hughes kicked the three points.
The Parc Y Scarlets side secured a bonus point try when Josh Jones dropped a pass in midfield that was picked up by centre Ioan Nicholas, who raced clear to score under the posts. Hughes converted.
With three minutes of normal time left on the clock Swansea gave themselves a lifeline when Fox took advantage of a tired Llanelli defence to score in the corner. Wilson converted to narrow the gap to just four points.
However, it was not to be for the Whites as the Llanelli pack stayed solid and helped to run down the clock, before Hughes kicked the ball out of play to spark celebrations in the visitors’ camp.
The win keeps Llanelli in the hunt for a place in the top half of the Premiership, while Swansea are now tied on points at the bottom with Bargoed. Next up for the Whites is a trip to Llandovery, while Llanelli travel to Bedwas.
Full-time:- Swansea 23 Llanelli 27
Tries:- Richard Williams (20), Tudor Hughes (62), Jon Fox (78)
Cons:- Jac Wilson (79)
Pens:- Jac Wilson (8, 43)
Yellow cards:- Richard Williams (37)
Tries:- Matthew Brewer (10), Jack Condy (34), Ryan Conbeer (37), Ioan Nicholas (74)
Cons:- Ioan Hughes (11, 75)
Pens:- Ioan Hughes (69)
Yellow cards:- Adam Powell (40)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Referee:- Aled Evans
Weather:- Sunny, 10C
Man of the match:- Jack Condy
15 Josh Jones
14 Andrew Claypole
13 Ryan Evans
12 David Watts (rep: Jedd Evans 50)
11 Richard Williams
10 Jac Wilson
9 Martin Luckwell
1 Tom Sloane
2 Ricky Guest (rep: Paul John 52)
3 Mitchell Walsh (rep: Fenton Holder 75)
4 Jay Williams (rep: Jon Fox 59)
5 Tudor Hughes
6 Jon Vaughan © (rep: Rory Gallagher 59)
7 Jack Perkins (rep: Richard Murphy 80)
8 Will Jones
16 Paul John
17 Richard Murphy
18 Fenton Holder
19 Jon Fox
20 Rory Gallagher
21 Mike Jones
22 Jedd Evans
23 Luke Griffiths
15 Kalum Evans
14 Matthew Brewer
13 Ioan Nicholas
12 Johnny Lewis (rep: Paul Davies 76)
11 Ryan Conbeer (rep: Nathan Edwards 76)
10 Ioan Hughes
9 Declan Smith (rep: Rhodri Cole 64)
1 Rhys Fawcett (rep: Dan Jacobs 75)
2 Taylor Davies (rep: Greg George 80+1)
3 Simon Gardiner (rep: Tom Kaijaks 47)
4 Adam Powell ©
5 Ed Curtis (rep: Jack Davies 70)
6 Tom Phillips (rep: Trystan Lloyd 41)
7 Nathan Hart
8 Jack Condy
16 Dan Jacobs
17 Greg George
18 Tom Kaijaks
19 Jack Davies
20 Trystan Lloyd
21 Rhodri Cole
22 Paul Davies
23 Nathan Edwards