BY TONY POOLE
LLANELLI came late to close things out against Cardiff and go third in the Welsh Premiership.
However, the scoreline flattered the Parc y Scarlets side, who recorded a 14th straight home league win since losing to old rivals Swansea, 31-18, back in January.
The Blue and Blacks deserved to get something out of game labelled high in endeavour but low on quality,
They were well in contention going into the final quarter with Llanelli only 17-16 up, and down to 14 men with prop Trystan Davies binned.
But the Blue and Blacks failed to drive home the advantage during a succession of scrum fives – and with it went the spoils.
The Sospans weathered the storm and when their talisman Craig Hawkins was introduced in the 66th minute, he once more proved a catalyst.
A fifth penalty from fly-half Steven Shingler increased the lead to 20-16 ahead of a piece of opportunism from another Llanelli replacement.
After replacement wing Jordan Williams was a spear-tackle victim, replacement scrum-half Gareth Davies opted for a tap and go close to halfway.
His arcing run caught Cardiff on the hop, and he eventually touched down close to the left-hand corner flag.
The conversion attempt from Shingler struck an upright, but Llanelli went on to get another try from final play.
Cardiff hooker Ryan James had to minor and from the ensuing scrum, club captain Hawkins burrowed over for the 27th league try of his career.
Fly-half Shingler, who contributed 17 points, rounded things off with a superb touchline conversion, leaving Cardiff to dwell on what might have been.
“We have to be more clinical when getting into try-scoring positions, as a failure to do so cost us the game against Llanelli,” said Cardiff team manager Gafyn Cooper.
The game got off to a cracking start, and there seemed every prospect of a rousing east-west encounter compensating fans for turning out in cold conditions.
A break from Llanelli full-back Dan Evans was taken on by wing Liam Williams, who was halted close to the try-line.
But Cardiff then pieced together a slick handling move in the eighth minute, resulting in wing Steve Taylor outstripping the cover to claim a sizzling try.
Fly-half Scott Sneddon converted only for Llanelli to hit back soon after with an unconverted try from scrum-half Aled Davies.
But things then went downhill fast with the remainder of the half dominated by errors and a high penalty count.
Fly-half Shingler outscored opposite number Sneddon, 4-2, on penalties, leaving Llanelli 17-13 to the good at half time.
Little changed on the resumption and during a drab third quarter - that only produced a Sneddon penalty - Cardiff threatened to pull off only a second league win at Llanelli
But when push came to shove they weren’t quite good enough despite a fine showing from Blues No 8 Tom Brown.
Brown, who was making a club debut, showed up well as Cardiff’s prime ball carrier.
So too did Llanelli No 8 Matt Gilbert, a Hartpury College product, who was recommended to the club by ex-Llanelli coach Allan Lewis.
“In fairness to Cardiff they mounted a robust challenge, and all in all they were stubborn opponents,” said Llanelli head of rugby Anthony Buchanan.
“Calls by the Scarlets left us a little thin at prop, but Rhys Thomas made a promising debut while it was great to have Shaun Hopkins back from injury.’’
Llanelli: Tries – A Davies, G Davies, C Hawkins; Con: S Shingler; Pens: S Shingler (5)
Team: D Evans; J James, N Reynolds (I Evans 79 mins), J. Lewis, Liam Williams (J Williams 72); S Shingler, A Davies (G Davies 46); Rhys Thomas (Cwmllynfell)(S Hopkins 63), R Lawrence (C Hawkins 66), T Davies (A Beaujean 64), Adam Powell (capt), J Gardiner (Allan Powell 46), D Eager, M Gilbert (A Beaujean 54-64), N Cudd
Cardiff: Try – S Taylor; Con: S Sneddon; Pens: S Sneddon (3)
Team: J Norris; R Howells (D Ryan 68), R Smith, S Powell, S Taylor; S Sneddon, R Dyer (L Jones 68); I George, R James, K Gay (D Preece 54), G Harrington (capt)(C Bundy 46), M Cook, S Grainger, T. Brown, T Young (J Ringer 27, D Godfrey 40+3)
Yellow cards: R Smith (Cardiff) 30, T Davies (Llanelli) 49
Referee: Hugh Watkins (Cadoxton)
Llanelli star choice: Matt Gilbert
Next home match :-
Saturday 18th December kick off 3:30pm v Nottingham RFC, British & Irish Cup
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