Llanelli have to wait on the result of the Leinster A and London Welsh game today (sunday), to see if their hard earned draw at Bedford Blues yesterday is enough for them to get into the British and Irish Cup quarter finals.
Bedford Blues 25
By Tony Poole
IT was a case of all’s well that ends well for Llanelli in the British & Irish Cup.
Having been held to a 25-25 draw at last year’s losing finalists Bedford Blues on Saturday, the Parc y Scarlets side only held a slender three-point advantage over closest Pool Four challengers London Welsh.
That left Llanelli’s qualification hopes dangling on the Leinster A clash with London Welsh at Donnybrook on Sunday.
So, Adam Powell’s side faced a nervous 24 hours until the Donnybrook clash got underway.
Leinster, who sneaked a 19-13 win at Parc y Scarlets the week before, held a substantial lead only to get pegged back – and it finished 24-24.
Many felt the losing bonus point that Llanelli picked up a Leinster might proved vital, and that school of thought proved spot on.
It left Llanelli as pool winners on 13 points – one more than Lyn Jones’s Exiles.
Llanelli join two other Welsh qualifiers - Cross Keys and Pontypridd - in the last eight together with Cornish Pirates, Leinster A, Ulster, Nottingham and Munster A.
However, qualification seemed in the bag at Saturday tea-time when the Parc y Scarlets side led Bedford Blues, 25-18, six minutes into stoppage time at Goldington Road.
But in a heart-breaking climax, the Blues crossed for a try from final play through replacement scrum-half Luke Baldwin.
The issue then hinged on the conversion and fly-half Jamie Lennard duly obliged to tie the scores.
The standout Llanelli showing at Goldington Road came from flanker Duane Eager, who almost tackled himself to a standstill.
The prodigious boot of fly-half Daniel Newton also held the Sospans in good stead on the back of a 20-point match contribution.
Though outscored 3-1 on tries, the Parc y Scarlets side seemed on a victory footing until that fateful final moment.
During the early stages fly-half Newton nailed three penalties compared to one from opposite number Lennard.
But last season’s beaten finalists snapped back with a fortuitous try from lock Billy Johnson that went unconverted.
That cut the deficit to 9-8, until a Dan Evans punt on 34 minutes caught the home defence at sixes and sevens.
Iolo Evans was first to react, making midfield progress to set up a third competition try of the season for fellow centre Jonny Lewis.
Fly-half Newton added the extras, the sides changing ends on 16-8, only for Bedford to hit back strongly.
In the 52nd minute fly-half Lennard stroked over a second penalty while soon after a try from centre Henry Staff – goaled by Lennard – gave them the lead for the only time on 18-16.
Fly-half Newton then nailed penalties in the 63rd, 71st and 75th minutes to give Llanelli breathing space on 25-18.
However, a late dust up led to Bedford replacement prop Phil Boulton being binned, and Llanelli prop Shaun Hopkins sent off for a second yellow card.
And in a final throw of the dice, the try down the narrow side from replacement Baldwin brought about the sleepless night for Llanelli followers.
Bedford Blues: Tries – B. Johnson, H. Staff, L. Baldwin; Cons: J. Lennard (2); Pens: J. Lennard (2)
Team: M. Kohler (J. Basset 63); D. Vincent, H. Staff, I. Vaas, T. Bedford; J. Lennard, S. Liebenberg (L. Baldwin 54); N. Steenkamp, C. Locke (N. Cochrane 54), D. Seal (P. Boulton 57), B. Johnson (M. Howard 71), S. Pailor, G. Gillanders, D. Barrell, A. Rae (capt, B. White 54)
Llanelli: Try – J. Lewis; Con: D. Newton; Pens: D. Newton (6)
Team: D. Evans; J. James, I. Evans, J. Lewis, A. Fenby (J. Williams 54); D. Newton, R. Williams; S. Hopkins, C. Hawkins (K. Myhill 66), S. Gardiner (A. Hopkins 63), N. White, Adam Powell (capt), M. Gilbert, Allan Powell (D. Thomas 59), D. Eager (E. Price 71)
Referee: Eanna O’Dowd (IRFU).