By Tony Poole
WHEN all seemed lost for Llanelli against rejuvenated Newport, up popped centre James Griffiths with a try to save their bacon.
His try halfway out – engineered by replacement flanker Daniel Thomas – was recorded five minutes into time added on.
It brought the Black and Ambers back to 22-20 and the outcome then hinged on the conversion from full-back Gareth Walters, who had landed five out of seven penalties.
And the aim of the ex-Tata Steel man proved spot on with his kick curling in at the far post from final play.
Though the Sospans dominated for half an hour, they were guilty of going off the boil and nearly paid the price for it.
But a two-point return just about kept their Welsh Premiership play-off hopes alive.
But the Llanelli management team will surely call for a significant improvement if this quest is to reach fruition.
Newport had only won once at Parc y Scarlets, 36-10 during a first visit to the Carmarthenshire ground in April 2009, and had lost the last six clashes between the clubs.
But this stalemate now means that during the semi-professional era the head-to-head continues to favour Newport 11-10 with the latest encounter producing a first draw.
Eighth-placed Newport were on the scoreboard first via a third-minute penalty from full-back Geraint O’Driscoll – but the lead only lasted a minute.
Opposite number Gareth Walters struck the equalising penalty – and more Llanelli pressure resulted in him knocking over further penalties in the 14th and 19th minutes.
Newport then had ex-Bedwas back-row man Brendan Lampitt binned in the 25th minute for ball-killing, and Walters nailed the ensuing penalty for 12-3.
A fifth Walters penalty enhanced the lead on the half-hour, but in the 32nd minute, the Black and Ambers bucked the trend in remarkable fashion.
With Lampitt still on the sidelines, full-back O’Driscoll burst clear down the left touchline to claim a corner try that he also improved on.
That reduced half-time arrears to 15-10, and rejuvenated Newport were back on terms just 90 seconds into the second period.
Wales U20 centre Tyler Morgan drove over for an unconverted try close to the flag while soon after Llanelli full-back Walters fluffed a second penalty.
Newport bombed a decent try-scoring chance in the 56th minute when full-back O’Driscoll failed to cling on to a difficult try-scoring pass from centre Morgan.
However, it was now the Black and Ambers who were pressing, and replacement wing Tom James almost set up a try for centre Morgan on the hour.
But Newport perseverance was rewarded in the 70th minute, as a piercing break from replacement wing James produced a try close to the posts that O’Driscoll duly goaled.
It led to Llanelli piling on the pressure with wing Dafydd Lewis and replacement prop Ben Leung both thwarted within sniffing distance of the goal-line.
And just when it seemed as if the game was all up for the Sospans – an equalising score unfolded five minutes into stoppage-time.
Replacement flanker Dan Thomas eluded tackles, and centre Griffiths shot through a gap to touchdown halfway out.
The outcome then hinged on the conversion, and full-back Walters duly obliged to earn Llanelli a last-gasp share of the spoils.
LLANELLI: G Walters; J Adams, Jonny Lewis (J Evans 45), J Griffiths, D Lewis; J James, A Davies; R Thomas, K Myhill (D Harris h-t), G Havard (B Leung 65), N White, E Price, D Eager (capt), S Leach (D Thomas 65), O Morgan
Scorers: Try – J Griffiths; Con: G Walters; Pens: G Walters (5)
NEWPORT: G O’Driscoll; A Hewitt, T Morgan, D Robinson, O Broad (T James 59); E Davies, J Leadbetter; D Pattison, Andrew Brown, A Jeffries, D Rosser (Adam Brown 51), A Frampton, C Attwell (capt), B Lampitt, O Griffiths
Scorers: Tries – G O’Driscoll, T Morgan, T James; Cons: G O’Driscoll (2); Pen: G O’Driscoll
SCORE SEQUENCE: 0-3, 3-3, 6-3, 9-3, 12-3, 15-3, 15-8, 15-10 (half-time); 15-15, 15-20, 15-22, 20-22, 22-22.
REFEREE: Owain Griffith (Cardiff)
MOM: Edward Price