PRINCIPALITY PREMIERSHIP TIER TWO – NEWPORT 9 LLANELLI 26
BY TOM COLEMAN
Llanelli gave their Principality Premiership Tier Two play-off hopes a significant boost with an impressive bonus-point win over previously unbeaten leaders Newport at Rodney Parade.
An intriguing first half saw Newport hold a slender lead courtesy of three Matt O’Brien penalties, although a converted try from Ryan Davies proved the foundation for a hard-fought Llanelli victory.
The visitors, playing their first competitive game in three weeks, took control of the contest when Nathan Hart touched down, before tries from Thomas Rogers and Dion Jones wrapped up a difficult afternoon for the Gwent outfit.
The result deals a blow to Newport’s hopes of gaining the top two finish needed for a home tie in the upcoming play-offs, while Llanelli now face an anxious wait to see if they have done enough to seal a place of their own.
The West Walians end their campaign in second place, but could still miss out on a place in the top four should other results go against them.
Nevertheless, boss Dai Flanagan will be pleased with the manner of his side’s victory – their fourth in as many league outings.
O’Brien edged the Black and Ambers into the lead following a closely-contested start, but Llanelli quickly pinned the hosts back.
Matthew Flanagan came agonisingly close to touching down in the corner following a brilliant drive, before a well-worked move from the resulting scrum allowed Davies to pick his spot and go over for a converted score.
Newport hit back, capitalising on indiscipline in the Llanelli ranks with two more O’Brien penalties to win back the lead, which included an audacious kick from the halfway line.
Hart looked to have earned Llanelli another try just before half-time, only for referee Jason Bessant to pull play back for a forward pass, but his disappointment was eased two minutes after the break when he burst through a stretched defence to cross the whitewash.
A third arrived just after the hour when Ashley Evans waltzed through a stretched Newport backline to set up substitute Rogers for another well-worked try.
And a fine afternoon was completed for Llanelli 10 minutes later, as yet another fine set piece allowed Jones to get behind the defence and touch down between the posts, before getting up to add another two points from the tee.
NEWPORT: G O’Driscoll, W Cunliffe, C Smith (T Hoppe 55), T Pascoe, E Frewen, M O’Brien, R James (R Bates 55); N Boyce (W Evans 59), H Palmer (M Prosser 59), G Harris (F Young 59), G Bilton (L Greggains 44), D Partridge, D Mock, K Taylor, R Jenkins
Pens: M O’Brien 3
LLANELLI: K Evans (T Rogers 61), D Jones, R Davies (N Edwards 52), I Nicholas, A Evans, I Hughes, M Flanagan (S Maynard 51); R Fawcett (R Thomas 56), T Davies, N Thomas (T Kaijaks 44), A Powell (capt), C Long, N Hart, D Davis, T Phillips (O Morgan 64)
Tries: R Davies, N Hart, T Rogers, D Jones; Con: I Hughes, D Jones 2