By: Paul Hopkins
Swansea rounded off the 2021/22 season with a bonus point win over old rivals Llanelli at St Helen’s.
It was the visitors who looked the sharper side in the early moments and winger Harrison Button threatened on the wing inside the opening minute when he beat two tacklers, but he was stopped in the 22 and a lack of support meant he was turned over easily and Swansea were able to clear.
It was Button’s opposite number Harry Houston who made the first impact on the match after he took a pass on the wing and weaved through a tackle to back his pace for a try in the corner. Fly half Cai Evans converted.
Lock Ashleigh Hyndman collected a lineout inside the Swansea half and the visitors’ pack made a few yards upfield. A long pass out wide to Button almost saw the winger score a carbon copy of the first home try, but Houston got back to intercept his inside pass.
Soon after the All Whites were penalised for offside at the breakdown and fly half Josh Phillips chose to chip into the corner. The visitors tried their best to breach the Swansea defence, who transgressed close to the line. Phillips again kicked to the corner.
This time flanker Jacob Lewis took the lineout but the advancing maul was brought down illegally just short of the line. Phillips again kicked to touch with lock Tom Price stopped just short of the whitewash after taking the lineout. The home side finally got their try through prop Rhys Davies, who burrowed his way over the line. Phillips converted to tie the scores.
The pacey Button caused more problems for the Whites’ defence as he raced out from his 22, but Houston again tracked back to make the tackle.
Phillips chipped to touch with a penalty and Jacob Lewis rose high at the back of the lineout, but centre Jonny Lewis was penalised for a double movement following a tackle.
Number eight Will Hickey tried to charge through the middle, but was held up on half way and centre Gareth Rees made 10 yards upfield, although full back Ioan Hughes comfortably defused a poor chip over the top by Evans.
A superb break through the middle by centre Kieran Charles split the Llanelli defence, but he failed to find a crucial pass on the 22 and Jonny Lewis was able to scramble a kick clear. Swansea came again through flanker Jay Williams, but Charles spilled the pass forward.
A poor mistake by the Llanelli backs gifted Swansea an attacking scrum inside the 22 and scrum half Chris Morgans looked to go by himself, but was penalised for holding on after the tackle.
The home side regained the lead when Rees spotted a gap in midfield and raced through before firing out a scoring pass to winger Llien Morgan. Evans converted.
Number eight Nathan Hart caught the Swansea defence half asleep by sprinting through the middle, finding scrum half Archie Hughes in support, but Jacob Lewis was penalised for entering the ruck from an offside position.
Morgans made a break through the middle and found Evans in support. The home side quickly recycled the ball through Charles and in the next phase of play Evans picked up the ball to score unopposed under the posts. He also converted.
Quick thinking by winger Josh Hathaway, who took a tap penalty, earned the visitors 20 metres, but he lost the ball forward. Llanelli were awarded a penalty on the stroke of half time after their counterparts drove sidewards at a scrum. Phillips turned down the kickable chance and instead chipped to the corner and it proved the right decision with Hart crashing over for a try. Phillips converted.
Half-time:- Swansea 21-14 Llanelli
Inside the opening minutes of the second half flanker Ryan Jenkins was penalised for holding on after the tackle. Evans kicked the three pointer.
A powerful scrum by the visitors forced Morgans into a mistake but the All Whites returned the favour with an excellent set piece of their own. Phillips made a break and was supported by centre Iwan Evans, but a Swansea defender deemed to have accidentally knocked the ball forward.
Evans found touch just inside the Llanelli half with a penalty and the home pack drove forward before the fly half again chipped to touch. A fight then ensued in the middle of the field with both captains warned.
A huge touch finder by replacement fly half Taliesin Rees took the visitors up to the Swansea 22, but substitute centre Amir Jiwa-Walji was unable to take the pass out wide.
The visitors continued to look for a way back into the match and Button came close to breaking through a tackle, but the Llanelli forwards were penalised for entering a ruck from the side.
The home side secured a bonus point try against the run of play when Hathaway sprinted clear of the Swansea defence, but his try scoring pass was spilled forward by Jiwa-Walji. Instead, full back Iestyn Hopkins showed his searing pace to sprint 60 metres upfield, before handing the ball to the supporting lock Matt Dodd, who capped off an incredible personal feat of starting every match this season with a try. Evans converted.
In the dying moments Jonny Lewis and replacement centre Hanno Dirksen were handed yellow cards for starting a second fight of the evening. Llanelli were awarded the penalty and their pack charged forward from the lineout with replacement hooker Rhys Cherry claiming the try. Rees converted.
Full-time:- Swansea 31-21 Llanelli
Tries:- Harri Houston (4), Llien Morgan (30), Cai Evans (37), Matt Dodd (79)
Cons:- Cai Evans (5, 31, 38, 80)
Pens:- Cai Evans (47)
Yellow cards:- Hanno Dirksen (80+6)
Tries:- Rhys Davies (12), Llew Phillips-Taylor (40+8), Rhys Cherry (80+8)
Cons:- Josh Phillips (13, 40+9), Taliesin Rees (80+9)
Yellow cards:- Jonny Lewis (80+6)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Weather:- Light cloud, 11C
Man of the match:- Matt Dodd
15 Iestyn Hopkins
14 Harri Houston
13 Gareth Rees
12 Kieran Charles (rep: Hanno Dirksen 59)
11 Llien Morgan (rep: James Davies 53)
10 Cai Evans
9 Chris Morgans (rep: Connor Tantum 68)
1 Cameron Jones (rep: Tom Northy 56)
2 Owen Thomas (rep: Garan Williams 67)
3 Richard Murphy (rep: Jordan Pritchard 76)
4 Matt Dodd
5 Huw Sutton (rep: Lewis Jones 63)
6 Jay Williams ©
7 Callum Bowden
8 Will Hickey (rep: Cai Davies 63)
16 Garan Williams
17 Tom Northy
18 Jordan Pritchard
19 Lewis Jones
20 Cai Davies
21 Connor Tantum
22 James Davies
23 Hanno Dirksen
15 Ioan Hughes
14 Josh Hathaway
13 Iwan Evans (rep: Amir Jiwa-Walji 56)
12 Jonny Lewis
11 Harrison Button
10 Josh Phillips (rep: Taliesin Rees 63)
9 Archie Hughes (rep: Gruffydd Williams 72)
1 Thomas Zoogah (rep: Sam O’Connor 56)
2 Llew Phillips-Taylor (rep: Rhys Cherry 63)
3 Rhys Davies (rep: Math Iorwerth-Scott 41)
4 Ashleigh Hyndman
5 Tom Price (rep: Sam Martin 41)
6 Ryan Jenkins
7 Jacob Lewis (rep: Caleb Salmon 56)
8 Nathan Hart ©
16 Rhys Cherry
17 Sam O’Connor
18 Math Iorwerth-Scott
19 Sam Martin
20 Caleb Salmon
21 Gruffydd Williams
22 Taliesin Rees
23 Amir Jiwa-Walji