Image courtesy of: Riley Sports Photography
By: Paul Hopkins
A clinical 10 minute period in the second half proved the difference as the All Whites tasted victory in the Boxing Day West Walian derby.
It was the visitors who took an early lead through a Josh Phillips penalty after the Swansea defence crept offside at the ruck.
Moments later, the Llanelli pack were penalised for failing to roll away after a tackle and full back Cai Evans signalled the Whites’ intent by kicking to the corner, only for hooker Garan Williams to fail with the lineout throw.
Lock Tristan Davies took a lineout and fed centre Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, who charged through the middle, but the supporting prop Garyn Phillips became isolated and turned over possession.
Great handling skills by the visitors’ backs took play up to the Swansea 22, but a knock on gifted the home side a chance to counterattack. Winger Eddie James cleverly intercepted a pass and beat the covering Thomas-Wheeler to race clear for a try in the corner. Fly half Phillips missed the conversion.
A superb counter ruck by the home forwards gave Swansea possession on the 22, but flanker Dan Davis nipped in to make a vital steal at the breakdown.
The Swansea pack were penalised at the scrum and Phillips chose to kick at goal, but dragged his effort wide of the post.
Moments later Evans was handed the chance to narrow the deficit with a penalty goal of his own, after lock Chris Long stepped offside at the ruck, and he made no mistake to bring his side to within five points.
Then Davis was penalised for holding on after the tackle and Evans duly converted a three pointer from a similar position to his previous kick.
Lock Morgan Jones was knocked back in the tackle, forcing Phillips into a hurried high kick. Evans returned the favour, and an excellent tackle by winger Iestyn Hopkins forced an error by scrum half Luke Davies, gifting the Whites with attacking possession.
A clever short lineout by Williams almost resulted in a try for the home side, but the Llanelli pack managed to drive their counterparts into touch.
The Whites’ pack were penalised for pulling down a maul and sending an advantage up front, Phillips this time chose to kick to the corner. Jones took the lineout and an unstoppable maul saw prop Ben Watson squeeze over for a try. Phillips missed the conversion.
A superb 50/22 kick by Thomas-Wheeler gave Swansea a lineout a few metres from the Llanelli line, but lock Liam Edwards spilled the lineout forward.
A superb drive by the Whites’ pack earned a surprise turnover with the ball worked out wide for scrum half Rhodri Lewis to score on the stroke of half time. Evans converted.
Half-time:- Swansea 13-13 Llanelli
Lewis made a half break and the Llanelli defence were penalised for entering a ruck from the side. Evans chipped to the corner and the visitors gave away another penalty, prompting a warning from referee John Darcy.
Evans again found touch in the corner and flanker Will Hickey charged forward from the lineout, but James nipped in to intercept a pass, although luckily for the home side, play was brought back for an earlier penalty.
The home side were penalised for straying in front of an Evans kick and Phillips made no mistake with a shot at goal from in front of the posts.
A superb break by Hickey created an air of panic in the Llanelli defence and a crossfield kick was well taken by Hopkins. A professional foul by winger Jack Price saw the winger sent to the sidelines for 10 minutes – a moment that changed everything.
First, Evans chose to kick to the corner from the penalty and lock Matt Dodd took the lineout with replacement hooker Garin Lloyd powering over from the maul to score a try that Evans converted.
And then things got even better for the All Whites when Hickey picked up a loose ball to allow his backline to stretch their legs to send the pacey Hopkins over for a third Swansea try. Evans converted.
The All Whites began to run riot as a superb 30 yard run by replacement winger Harri Houston out wide set up a platform for the home side to mount another attack. This time, a crossfield kick was collected by substitute flanker Harri Deaves, who shrugged off a tackle to clinch a bonus point try. Evans converted.
The visitors managed a late consolation try inside injury time by replacement number eight Nathan Hart after sustained pressure on the Swansea line. Substitute fly half Tal Rees converted.
Full-time:- Swansea 34-23 Llanelli
Tries:- Rhodri Lewis (40+1), Garin Lloyd (64), Iestyn Hopkins (67), Harri Deaves (72)
Cons:- Cai Evans (40+2, 65, 68, 73)
Pens:- Cai Evans (20, 23)
Tries:- Eddie James (9), Ben Watson (35), Nathan Hart (80+2)
Cons:- Tal Rees (80+3)
Pens:- Josh Phillips (2, 59)
Yellow cards:- Jack Price (62)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Weather:- Sunny, 8C
Referee:- John Darcy
Man of the match:- Cai Evans
15 Cai Evans
14 Iestyn Hopkins (rep: Harri Houston 69)
13 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler
12 Luke Scully
11 Mat Protheroe
10 James Davies (rep: Dan Edwards 65)
9 Rhodri Lewis (rep: Ben Ley 73)
1 Garyn Phillips (rep: Cameron Jones 57)
2 Garan Williams (rep: Garin Lloyd 40+1)
3 Ben Warren (rep: Ellis Fackrell 65)
4 Tristan Davies (rep: Matt Dodd 57)
5 Liam Edwards
6 Will Hickey
7 Callum Bowden (rep: Harri Deaves 57)
8 Morgan Morse
16 Garin Lloyd
17 Cameron Jones
18 Ellis Fackrell
19 Matt Dodd
20 Harri Deaves
21 Ben Ley
22 Dan Edwards
23 Harri Houston
15 Jac Davies (rep: Llew Smith 54)
14 Eddie James
13 Corey Baldwin
12 Joe Roberts
11 Jack Price
10 Josh Phillips (rep: Tal Rees 73)
9 Luke Davies (rep: Gareth George 65)
1 Sam O’Connor (rep: Rhys Davies 69)
2 Taylor Davies (rep: Llew Phillips-Taylor 65)
3 Ben Watson (rep: Ioan Lewis (80+3)
4 Chris Long
5 Morgan Jones (rep: Nathan Hart 69)
6 Iwan Shenton ©
7 Dan Davis
8 Ben Williams (rep: Ellis Rees-Lewis 80+3)
16 Llew Phillips-Taylor
17 Rhys Davies
18 Ioan Lewis
19 Ellis Rees-Lewis
20 Nathan Hart
21 Gareth George
22 Tal Rees
23 Llew Smith