Carmarthen Quins 19
By Tony Poole
A YOUNG Llanelli side held their nerve to register a deserved Welsh Premiership win over battle-hardened neighbours Carmarthen Quins at Parc y Scarlets.
Considering Llanelli went into the game without a recognised goal-kicker and a sprinkling of newcomers, they did well to secure a fifth straight league - and go third.
Llanelli would have taken this derby clash more comfortably if two simple penalties had gone over.
But the game provided lively entertainment between two well-matched sides, and didn’t produce one of the scourges of the Welsh game at the moment – yellow cards.
In their penultimate home league game of the season, the Parc y Scarlets side introduced Tondu flanker Nathan Brown and wing Iolo Evans, who hails from Caernarfon.
Brown is the son of Tondu coach Gareth, who captained the Waterwheelers during their pomp in the old first division, WRU Cup and Silver Ball.
Gareth Brown also coached Maesteg during their last spell in the Premiership two seasons back.
Joel Galley (Llangennech) also started while on the bench there four newcomers in lock Matthew Richards (Felinfoel), back row man Luke Owen (Llangennech), wing Luke Marshall (Kidwelly) and full-back Liam Williams (Waunarlwydd).
Another big performance from No 8 Ben Morgan went a longway to securing Llanelli victory while Dorian Thomas, who has been operating on the wing, showed eye-catching form at full-back.
His pace often stretched Quins at the back while centre Steve Martin also stood before an injury forced him to retire in the 58th minute.
Llanelli probed for the open spaces from the outset, but the first try-scoring chance went to Quins in the fourth minute.
However, full-back Andrew Banfield spilled the ball close to the try-line, and soon after Llanelli were held up over the goal line.
In the 12th minute, Llanelli’s emergency goal-kicker - fly-half Justin James – missed a simple penalty, and during the opening quarter the game lacked structure.
Barnstorming runs from inspirational hooker and captain Craig Hawkins along with centre Martin knocked Quins back, and in the 25th minute fly-half James missed another penalty from straight in front.
Those misses proved costly on the half-hour mark when Quins took the lead from a Ricky Richards tap-and-go.
The ball was moved left, and ex-Neath lock Martin Morgan crashed over for a try at the posts that fly-half Gareth Cull goaled.
But the lead lasted less than a minute, big Ben Morgan struck from 40 metres to record a magnificent seventh league try of the campaign.
And after pulled hamstring victim Simon Harris gave way on the whistle to Neil Howells, his first task was to acknowledge Llanelli’s second try.
This time centre Martin burst through and with fly-half James acting as linkman, try-sniffing Waterwheeler Brown was up in support for the touchdown.
Both conversions were missed by scrum-half Aled Davies, and already it looked as if Llanelli were going to have to score tries to win, as the goal-kicking was so poor.
The Parc y Scarlets side led 10-7 at the interval, and four minutes into the second half they almost got another try.
Full-back Thomas was just held up short of the try-line while captain Hawkins lost control in the act of touching down.
But Llanelli remained on the offensive, and deservedly increased the lead in the 50th minute via a fine individual try from centre Martin.
Following a patient build up, the ex-Otter swam with the tide to glide through a gap and collect a sixth league try this term.
The biggest cheer was then reserved for Llanelli’s third goal-kicker of the night, centre Nick Reynolds, who delivered the angled conversion.
But Quins cut the deficit to 17-12 in the 57th minute, wing Jamie Davies wriggling out of several tackles to claim a try close to the corner flag that went unconverted.
Two tries in as many minutes then kept the game on a knife-edge.
In the 74th minute, Llanelli wrapped up the bonus-point victory with a close-range try from lock Adam Powell that centre Reynolds converted.
Back came Quins and a sweeping attack resulted in a try for replacement full-back Anthony Rees with fly-half Cull adding the extras.
However, in the final move Quins went close to pulling the game out of the fire only to bomb a try when the ball was lost close to the goal line.
Llanelli: Tries - B. Morgan, N. Brown, S. Martin, A. Powell; Cons: N. Reynolds (2)
Team: D. Thomas; Iolo Evans (repl Liam Williams 62 mins), N. Reynolds, S. Martin (repl C. Keenan 58), J. Howells; J. James, A. Davies; S. Hopkins, C. Hawkins (capt), J. Corsi, A. Powell, J. Galley (repl M. Richards 60), S. Phillips, B. Morgan, N. Brown (repl L. Owen 73)
Carmarthen Quins: Tries - M. Morgan, J. Davies, A. Rees; Cons: G. Cull (2)
Team: A. Banfield; R. Carter, J. Harries (repl J. Garland 55), T. Davies (capt) (repl A. Rees 39), J. Davies; G. Cull, R. Richards; A. Beaujean, C. Kelly (repl M. Jones 51), K. Jones, M. Morgan, G. Evans, A. Thomas, S. Timani (repl K. Gibbins 58), E. Lloyd (repl W. Williams 66)
Referee: Simon Harris (Port Talbot) repl Neil Howells (Maesteg) 34 mins
Llanelli star choice: Ben Morgan