Llanelli put in a clinical performance to seal a hard-fought Principality Premiership victory over Neath at the Gnoll.
After beating Bridgend in their last game, Neath started confidently and went in hunt of a try straight from the whistle and only solid defending from Llanelli denied them in the second minute. And that set the tone for the first quarter of an hour.
Despite looking for a try, Neath were given the chance to take the lead with a penalty but Ed Howley was off target with his kick.
After soaking up all the pressure, Llanelli went on a rare attack on the counter with fly-half Billy McBryde collecting his own kick to touch down and give the visitors the lead against the run of play. McBryde stepped up to kick the conversion too.
Despite enjoying the majority of possession, Neath’s passing lacked fluidity and was predictable, allowing Llanelli to keep them out. And the hosts were caught out again with Dion Jones pulling away from the last man to run unopposed for his fifth try of the season with McBryde adding the extras.
Neath hit back straight away with an Ed Howley penalty but their joy was short lived as Llanelli bagged their third try through Owain Morgan just before half time.
Iwan Evans gave the hosts hope of a comeback early in the second half when he ran through a gap in Llanelli’s defence to touch down with Howley converting but a McBryde penalty pushed Dai Flanagan’s men further ahead.
The hosts put together a fine passing move but poor handling in the visitors’ 22 saw the chance wasted. But the game changed in Neath’s favour after the introduction of Kieran Williams, who brought the hosts back into the game with a converted try after a surging run before going close to a quickfire second. However, they didn’t have to wait long for another score as Howley touched down in the corner to move Neath within two points of Llanelli.
The All Blacks’ revival was halted when replacement Geraint James was sent to the sin-bin and Rhys Fawcett sealed the win, and a bonus point, for Llanelli within seconds of James leaving the field, with McBryde converting.
Neath 22-31 Llanelli
By Jay Bayford