By: Paul Hopkins
Swansea grabbed their third victory of the season with a thrilling 40-33 defeat of old rivals Llanelli in a match that swung back and forth.
While the win will be scant consolation for the All Whites, who were already knocked out of the Fosters Cup, it gives them a great deal of confidence to tackle the second half of the season.
It was a bright start for the visitors when centre Olly Reyland put the Whites on the backfoot when he took a crash ball, and he looked to have sent winger Gwion Jones clear, but play was brought back for a forward pass.
However, it was the All Whites who took the lead against the run of play when a loose pass by full back Tom Howells was plucked out of the air by winger Will Lewis, who raced clear to score under the posts. Fly half Jac Wilson converted.
Another error in the air by Howells saw Lewis pick up a loose ball and send impressive lock Tudor Hughes powering forward. Centre Ewan Gully was on hand to race up to the twenty-two, finding Hughes and flanker Chris James in support, only for the visitors to kill the ball.
Ill-discipline in the Llanelli ranks meant Wilson had a couple of opportunities to kick to the corner, and finally the Whites scored when Hughes rose to collect a lineout and sent James over for a try.
The visitors hit back two minutes later when flanker Nathan Hart made a break from inside his own half up to the five-metre line, allowing the backs to get the ball quickly out wide for winger Ashley Evans to score. Fly half Ioan Hughes converted.
Llanelli continued to attack and got the ball out wide with Hart, hooker Craig Thomas and prop Dylan Phillips making hard yards, but a forward pass to Reyland brought an end to the move.
When Swansea flanker Ben Davies made a break from the ruck it looked like the All Whites were set to turn the screw, but the ball spilled loose and was picked up by Howells, who used his pace to score. Hughes converted.
The visitors then turned the match on its head when Hughes and Reyland ran the Whites ragged and got the ball out wide through the hands of Howells, who sent Thomas over for a try. Hughes missed the conversion.
On the stroke of half time centre Nathan Edwards showed great pace to run through the middle from deep. The supporting Reyland passed to scrum half Matthew Flanagan, who touched down for his side’s bonus point try. Hughes converted.
Half-time:- Swansea 14 Llanelli 26
The visitors continued where they left off in the first half with their backs doing more damage, but a forward pass by Reyland to Howells ended the move.
The turning point of the match came after 46 minutes when Gully raced through a gap in midfield and found scrum half Rhodri Wells in support. Hart was penalised for killing the ball and was shown a yellow card – a moment that changed the match.
With an extra man in the pack, the All Whites opted for a scrum and it was a well-calculated decision as number eight Rory Gallagher peeled off the back of the set piece to score. Wilson converted.
The Llanelli backs began to panic and replacement lock Jon Fox scooped up a dropped pass and fed centre Ryan Evans, who made a break and slipped over, but managed to regain his feet to score a try. Wilson kicked his side back ahead with a successful conversion.
Hughes made a barnstorming run, turning defence into attack as he fed winger Jon Bayliss, who sprinted up towards the line, with Wells on hand to score. Wilson converted.
Replacement prop Lewys Bullock picked up a loose ball from a high kick, but the supporting Gallagher was crowded into touch inside the twenty-two.
A Whites rolling maul from the lineout saw replacement prop Richard Murphy charge forward and the backs got the ball out wide for replacement full back Josh Jones to score. Wilson missed the conversion.
One minute into injury time Llanelli gave themselves a lifeline when Howells made a break from his own twenty-two, finding Reyland in support. Replacement number eight Lloyd Pike fired an inside pass to Jones, who scored. Substitute fly half Jonathan Rogers converted.
The visitors went in search of a draw and Edwards almost broke clear of the defence, but was stopped by a last ditch tap tackle. Replacement prop Liam Tobias then burst over half way, but lost the ball forward.
That was as close as the visitors got to rescuing a draw as the Whites defence remained firm to claim a hard-earned victory.
Next up for Swansea is a home match against Llandovery, while Llanelli travel to Carmarthen – both in the Fosters Cup.
Full-time:- Swansea 40 Llanelli 33
Tries:- Will Lewis (10), Chris James (18), Rory Gallagher (48), Ryan Evans (50), Rhodri Wells (57), Josh Jones (77)
Cons:- Jac Wilson (11, 19, 49, 51, 58)
Tries:- Ashley Evans (20), Tom Howells (26), Craig Thomas (38), Matthew Flanagan (40+3), Gwion Jones (80+1)
Cons:- Ioan Hughes (21, 27, 40+3), Jonathan Rogers (80+2)
Yellow cards:- Nathan Hart (46)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Referee:- Simon Mills
Weather:- Clear, 6C
Man of the match:- Tudor Hughes
15 Rhys Williams (rep: Josh Jones 58)
14 Jon Bayliss
13 Ryan Evans (rep: Lee Edgecombe 80+2)
12 Ewan Gully
11 Will Lewis
10 Jac Wilson
9 Rhodri Wells (rep: Mike Jones 80+2)
1 Lewys Jonathan (rep: Richard Murphy 48)
2 Ricky Guest
3 Mitchell Walsh (rep: Lewys Bullock 55)
4 Gavin Ronan
5 Tudor Hughes
6 Chris James © (rep: Jon Fox 48)
7 Ben Davies
8 Rory Gallagher (rep: Ross Barnes 72)
16 Alex Dunham
17 Richard Murphy
18 Lewys Bullock
19 Ross Barnes
20 Jon Fox
21 Mike Jones
22 Lee Edgecombe
23 Josh Jones
15 Tom Howells
14 Ashley Evans
13 Nathan Edwards ©
12 Olly Reyland (rep: Paul Davies 63)
11 Gwion Jones
10 Ioan Hughes (rep: Jonathan Rogers 70)
9 Matthew Flanagan (rep: Justin James 63)
1 Dylan Phillips (rep: Liam Tobias 73)
2 Craig Thomas (rep: Tom Curry 58)
3 Tom Kaijaks (rep: Richard Bassett 51)
4 Chris Long (rep: Jordan Evans 70)
5 Ben Davies
6 Jack Davies
7 Nathan Hart
8 Elliott Rees (rep: Lloyd Pike 51)
16 Liam Tobias
17 Tom Curry
18 Richard Bassett
19 Jordan Evans
20 Lloyd Pike
21 Justin Jams
22 Jonathan Rogers
23 Paul Davies