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Scarlets win denied as Pienaar inspires Ulster



Ulster 25

Scarlets 20

THE SCARLETS were denied what would have been a rare away win at the Kingspan Stadium as Ulster came from behind to move level on points with Glasgow Warriors at the top of the Guinness Pro12, inspired largely by the superb Ruan Pienaar. In an error strewn encounter the Scarlets had looked good for victory at half time, having led 13-6 there were visions of a first away win since February 2014. But Ulster roared out of the traps in the second period, scoring three tries in a dominant 40 minutes to sit side by side with the Warriors at the summit ahead of their trip to Munster on Saturday (Mar 7). It had looked as though the West Wales side were heading towards another wretched away loss, but to their credit, the players rallied and claimed a losing bonus point with minutes left on the clock. Nick Williams conceded a penalty for not releasing in the opening minutes, but fly half Steve Shingler struck wide of the uprights.

He was swiftly presented with a second opportunity to showcase his kicking talent however and duly delivered, moving the visitors into a 3-0 lead on 13 minutes. Straight from the restart Ulster were gifted a chance to get straight back into the game, however South African Pienaar dragged his penalty attempt wide across the posts. The strong Belfast breeze continued to play havoc when Shingler again missed off the tee. The ball visibly wobbled in the air and Shingler kicked the ground in frustration as his stats for the night read one from three. The smile was back on his face on 29 minutes though, scoring a simple penalty four minutes after Pienaar had struck at the other end to keep Scarlets in front.

There was no danger of any quality play breaking out as the weather played havoc with the handling skills of both teams and the Scarlets were again penalised at the breakdown just before the break. Pienaar stepped up to allow the home crowd to breathe a little easier, making no mistake from 22m. Panic set in though, when a loose pass from Ian Humphreys, on his 100th Ulster appearance, was intercepted by No.8 John Barclay who raced clear and touched down. Shingler added the extras to give his side a 13-6 lead at half-time. Facing into the fierce elements the Scarlets’ hopes of registering a first Guinness Pro12 away win in more than a year began to evaporate six minutes after the restart following Craig Gilroy’s breathtaking score. Leaving Ken Owens in his wake, he also left Jordan Williams and Shingler grasping at air as he ran in from fully 40 metres before diving over the line.

But Pienaar missed a difficult conversion and Scarlets retained a slender lead. The Scarlets kicking game was poor throughout, this coupled with a now creaking defence meant danger was imminent. A neat offload from Humphreys set Luke Marshall free. And, after dotting down behind the posts, Pienaar kicked his team five points in front. The South Africa star added the third try, receiving the ball from a scrum just a metre from the Scarlets line and brushing past Shingler to score, before himself adding the extras.

With their tails up, Ulster now went in search of their fourth try and a bonus point but the 17,000-strong home crowd saw Scarlets score the game’s final try instead. Kristian Phillips touched down in the corner after a smart break from Jordan Williams, bagging a bonus point of their own, and Shingler added the extras. It has been 7 long years since the Scarlets claimed victory away in Ulster but they will be pleased to come away with a hard earned bonus point. Teams: Ulster: Ludik, Gilroy, Cave, Marshall, Allen, Humphreys, Pienaar; Black, Herring, Herbst, Tuohy, van der Merwe, Wilson, Ross, N Williams Replacements: Andrew, Warwick, Ross, Stevenson, McComish, Marshall, Stanley, Scholes Scarlets: J Williams, Robinson, King, Parkes, Tagicakibau, Shingler, A. Davies; John, Owens, Edwards, Earle, Rawlins, Shingler, J Davies, Barclay Replacements: Elias, R. Thomas, Leung, Payne, McCusker, G Davies, A Warren, K Phillips Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

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Matchroom Reds continue good form



MATCHROOM REDS continued their good Llanelli Snooker League form with a fine 5-2 victory on their trip to Burry Port Legion.

The highlight an impressive 92 clearance-break from Reds’ cueman Craig Price; J.Bullen, R.Evans and B.Newcombe added winning support; Rob Davies and Dean Thomas hit back for the home side.

Elsewhere  in Division 1, Pontyberem also posted a convincing win, a 6-1 victory against Snooker  World Whites, courtesy of A.Harris, E.Bowen, C.Rees, K.Selwood and Kieran Evans (54 break); just D.Jones’ frame avoided the Ammanford side the whitewash.

Similarly, only C.Howells was on top as Burry Port Reading Room Blues crashed 6-1 to Trimsaran; for the latter, J.Tudor, L.Holland, K.Proctor, M.Foreman and C.Thomas all contributed points.

Llanesco were 5-2 winners at the expense of Gorseinon Workmens’, after L.Lloyd, S.Thomas, C.Lloyd and C.Rees had struck; M.Davies and J.Wilcox were on song for the Brighton Road side.

Meanwhile, Jeff Jones (42 break), Paul Martin, Adrian Phillips and Gary Stead steered Cross Hands B to a 5-2 success away at Ponthenri Social, whose winning duo were Nigel Lewis and Jeff Howells.

T.Rees and L.Davies were Matchroom Whites’ winning pair as they sank to a 5-2 defeat at Upper Tumble blues; E.Rees, J.Bradley, I.James and N.Walters were frame winners for the hosts.

Morfa Social swept to a comprehensive 6-1 victory against Pontarddulais Workingmens’, with Rob Hughes, Scott Ashford, G.Lewis, B.Follows and Andrew Hatto all on top; only Steve Davies won for Bont.

In Division 2, the Gremlin Club kept up their impressive form with a thumping 7-0 victory at Pontarddulais Cons B; B.Price (32), R.Barney, M.Dagnall, L.Collins, K.Gronow and G.Stollery completed the rout.

It required the aggregate point to separate Bryn and Trallwm A and New Lodge B as Bryn edged home 4-3, thanks to the efforts of J.Townsend, M.Boland and J.Jones; Andrew John, Gary Williams (27) and Roy Morgan hit back for Lodge.

It was more clear cut at Matchroom Blacks, where the home side defeated Bryn B 6-1, courtesy of Rhys Morgan, Ryan Maides, Thomas Williams, Cory Jenkins and Nathan Brain; Kurtis Myhill was the visitors’ solitary point-earner.

Cross Hands A saw off the challenge of Upper Tumble Reds to win 5-2, after Jeff Howells, Matthew James, Elwyn Williams and Gerald Evans each won their frame; S.Marshall and K.Evans replied for the Tumble cuemen.

Liam McGhee, S.Crump, K.James and J.Jordan earned Llandybie RFC a solid 5-2 win against Tycroes RFC, with M.Walters and A.Rees replying.

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Llangennech prove too strong for Crymych



LLANGENNECH earned their third bonus-point win in a row on Saturday (Dec 4) as they beat Crymych 30-10.

The home side started well and it was Andrew Thomas who crossed for the game’s first try.

That went unconverted but replacement no.10 Osian Evans then extended Llangennech’s lead to 11-0 with two penalties.

Crymych were then reduced to 14 players for ten minutes following a yellow card and Llangennech then picked up their second try of the game as Jordan Saunders touched down.

Evans then added the extras to give the home side an 18-0 lead at the break.

Crymych started the second half well and were rewarded with two unconverted tries for Tomos Lewis and Ilan Phillips.

However, there was then a red card for replacement tighthead Liam Tobias meaning Llangennech would be down to 14 men for the remainder of the game.

Despite being a man light Llangennech still pushed forward and they were awarded a penalty try off a driving maul.

Llangennech then got their bonus point in the last minute of the game as Kalum Evans touched down for an unconverted try to complete the scoring.

It means Llangennech sit top of the table with 15 points from their opening three games.

PHOTO by Darren Harries

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Reds earn win in John’s first game in charge



IF the first game under the new management of Lee John and Dylan Blain is an indication of how Llanelli Town mean to progress, the future looks bright, as they were almost unrecognisable to the side that had performed so abysmally a fortnight previously against the same opponents.

John and Blain were in charge of the visitors on that occasion at Glanhafod Park, but their influence even at this early stage is obvious, with the home side once more demonstrating a fast-flowing style and passing game which has been sadly lacking for most of the season, and hopefully this trend will continue.

The only worry is the small squad of players available for selection, with two more, captain Kyle Copp and Zac Brown, leaving recently, while injuries are also a concern with the latest casualty being Robert Thomas who will probably miss the rest of the season.

Doubtless, there will be efforts made to strengthen the squad during the January transfer window, but until then reserve and academy players will have to be utilised to swell the numbers.

The hosts were on the front foot from the outset, with the midfield particularly prominent, producing opportunities for the front runners, with a Callum Saunders delivery into the box being pushed clear by Scott Coughlan in the Goytre goal just before Callum Bateman was about to make a headed contact.

Thomas then went down injured, and after efforts to play on had to admit defeat, being replaced by Morgan Weaver after 18 minutes.

Bateman fired over after being played in by Chris Thomas when he broke from the back, but ironically, despite their dominance the Reds went close to conceding when the visitors, with almost their first real threat, forced Exauce Dimonekene into a great save to deny Jay Thomas, and then make an even better stop to keep out the rebound from James Parry.

These near-misses spurred on Goytre, and a corner to the near post by Bradley Flay was headed against the upright by Tim Parker.

Having survived these near-efforts, the hosts retaliated when a short corner by James Loveridge set up Sam Parsons whose well struck finish into the goalmouth was just about kept out Coughlan before the loose ball was hacked clear.

Loveridge himself then had a chance of opening the scoring, but blazed over from a decent position, and the interval arrived with neither side being able to break the deadlock.

The dominant force in the first half, the Reds continued where they had left off by taking the contest to their opponents, and Miles John was unlucky when his near post attempt on target deflected off Daniel Birch for a corner.

From this, Nathan Logan directed a header across the area to Bateman, but again Coughlan did just enough to prevent an opening score.

Louis Gerrard fired narrowly wide of the Goytre goal from distance, but the final ball was somehow lacking, and the nearest they came was from a Saunders free kick which went inches over the bar. 

For all their dominance, they also had to be vigilant at the other end as their opponents gradually came more into the game, and John brought off a saving tackle on Parker to prevent him pulling the trigger inside the box, while Goytre really should have taken the lead when an unmarked Flay headed wide from a few yards out following a great cross by Joseph Pelosi.

The Reds capitalised on this let-off by going ahead on 76 minutes through Logan who was found some 25 yards out from goal, and he curled a delightful finish past Coughlan just inside the post.

This proved to be his last action as he was replaced by Dylan Williams on 80 minutes, but within three minutes the lead was extended with something of a freak goal when Saunders unleashed a speculative shot on target which Coughlan made a complete hash of, allowing it to bounce off his legs and into the net.

Despite this setback, the visitors hauled themselves back into contention in the 86th minute after some initial attempts on the home goal had been partially cleared, with the ball eventually running loose and being met by Kyran Steadman who fired a well- aimed strike into the bottom corner to set up a grandstand finish.

With the clock running down but with a potential substantial amount of stoppage time to be added, the hosts were anxious to ensure they were not about to concede their advantage, and both Williams and Gavin Jones went close, before matters were finally wrapped up by Saunders in the 5th minute of added time when he despatched a well-taken set piece past Coughlan to seal the points, and more importantly a winning start for the new hierarchy.    

Another tough assignment awaits them on Saturday (Dec 11) when they travel to the Rhondda for their fixture against Cambrian & Clydach, kick off 2.30pm.

PHOTO by Darren Harries

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