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LLANELLI REVOLUTION STARTS TO TAKE HOLD

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Llanelli 22
Ebbw Vale 18

Josh Lewis: 10 points for Llanelli Fly Half (Pic. Riley Sports)

Josh Lewis: 10 points for Llanelli Fly Half (Pic. Riley Sports)

SIX months ago to the day, the two sides met at Parc-y-Scarlets and Ebbw were convincing winners, 51-0 in a victory that sealed a play-off place.

It was a different story this time, though, with a vastly improved Llanelli edging out the Steelmen who, temporarily at least, seem to have lost their way.

As new Head Coach Dai Flanagan was getting his ideas and training methods across to his new squad, including a host of new signings, Llanelli struggled in the opening month of the season, losing their first four games.

However fast forward to Saturday evening and his young Llanelli sided have now won three on the bounce, with this being the most memorable of them, as they downed last seasons play-off finalists in a fine performance at the Parc y Scarlets. If this result is anything to go by, the home crowd can look forward to many other exciting displays as Flanagan’s players begin to buy into his philosophy.

The visitors looked more of a threat in the early stages, but were met with some resolute home resistance, with Matthew Owens and Ben Leung both producing brilliant last-ditch tackles to prevent what looked certain Ebbw tries.

However the resolute defence couldn’t hold out forever, and it was a perfect start for Ebbw Vale, as they built a 10-0 lead. David Williams pounced for the first try, capitalising on a rolling maul from a line out. Iain Smerdon converted superbly, and later added a penalty.

Other chances came: a five metre attacking scrum in which the ball never appeared to enter the tunnel, letting Llanelli off the hook; a Ronny Kynes touchdown ruled out for a foot in touch; and another turned down for alleged crossing. On another day, and with a little more luck, Ebbw could have gone in well ahead… but it wasn’t another day, and Llanelli pounced twice late in the half, as that old cliché, the bouncing ball catching the defence off guard, came true. Former Ebbw favourite Josh Lewis scored and converted, then Justin James made it 14-10, which was how it stayed at the interval.

The second half saw Ebbw winning the lion’s share of possession, through a strong scrum and a lineout functioning much better than against Cross Keys last week. There were several clean breaks that could – and perhaps should – have led to scores, but all the possession and territory couldn’t be turned into points and Llanelli, who always looked threatening when they moved the ball, stretched their lead with a well-made try by Dion Jones, who also converted.

At 22-10, Ebbw had it all to do, but the pressure paid off as Mathew Williams crossed and Smerdon goaled to make it 22-18. More chances came: it looked as if a try had been scored, only for the assistant referee to rule a foot in touch. “Send it upstairs!” advised one Ebbw supporter, but such luxuries don’t exist at this level, and the game ended with Ebbw pressing hard for the score that wouldn’t come as the home defence stood firm as the Steelmen had to make do with a losing bonus point – as Llanelli held out to seal a fine victory.

Teams:

Llanelli:

15.Jordan Williams 14.Harry Robinson 13.Matthew Owens 12.Mathew Pearce 11.Dion Jones 10.Josh Lewis 9.Justin James: 8.Trystan Lloyd 7.Owain Morgan 6.Jack Jones 5.Rhydian Gierat 4. Adam Powell (capt) 3.Ben Leung 2.Taylor Davies 1.Rhys Thomas

Replacements:

16.Dylan Evans 17.Torin Myhill 18.Gareth Havard 19.Christian Long 20.Elliot Rees 21.Josh Guy 22.Shaun Pearce 23.Gareth Walters 24. Andrew Spowart

Ebbw Vale:

15.Chris Levesley 14.David Williams, 13.Dominic Franchi, 12.Adam Jones, 11.Ryan Gardner; 10.Iain Smerdon, 9.Tom Edwards; 1.Ross Jones, 2.Mathew Williams, 3.Gethin Robinson; 4.Damien Hudd (capt), 5.Ashley Sweet; 6.Cameron Regan, 7.Ronny Kynes, 8.Ethan Doyle.

Replacements:

16.Joseph Franchi, 17.Ian George, 18.Robert Sevenoaks, 19.Harrison Keddie, 20.Luke Crocker, 21.Chris Thomas, 22.Steffan Jones, 23.Dan Haymond.

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Sport

Snooker returns with Olympic Cup

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THE Llanelli & District Snooker League returned following the enforced break with the Olympic Cup opening round.

In the First Division, Trimsaran A returned with a convincing 4-0 win at Pontyberem Workmens’, Jamie Tudor, Carl Thomas, Kieran Proctor and Mark Foreman their frame winners.

Elsewhere, Snooker World Whites progressed with a similar 4-0 win at Llanesco, while Peter Rowlands, Gavin Quinnell, Mike Moore and Dean Bowen claimed a 4-2 win for Llanelli Cons A against Burry Port Legion.

Wyn Major provided Llandybie Social’s only resistance as his side went out 4-1 at Matchroom Whites; Tyler Rees, Tom Twigg, Chris Davies and Steven Jenkins struck for the home side.

Matchroom Reds defeated Morfa 4-2, whereas the closest match of the night saw Ponthenri Social edge through 4-3 at Cross Hands B, thanks to Nigel Lewis, Jeff Howells, Mark Regola and Andrew Jones.

In the Second Division, Josh Townsend was Bryn & Trallwm A’s solitary frame winner in a 4-1 home defeat against CGMD; for the Glanamman side, Wyn Llewelyn, Brian Chappel, Matthew Jones and James Varney were “on the ball”.

Elliott Anderson, Aaron Cruickshank, Adam Fussell and Luke Powell helped Bryn B go through with a 4-2 victory at Llandybie RFC; Dar Sigsworth and Sion Isaac won for the latter.

Cross Hands A squeezed through 4-3 away at Pont Cons B, whilst Adrian Davies, Cory Jenkins, Dean Shoulder and Nathan Brain gave Matchroom Blacks a 4-2 passage at the expense of the Gremlin Club.

Upper Tumble Reds knocked out New Lodge, winning 4-2, and there were “byes” into the next round for Llandybie Social B and Burry Port Reading Room Reds.

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Davies to captain Scarlets for 2021/22 season

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WALES international and British & Irish Lion Jonathan ‘Fox’ Davies will captain the Scarlets for the 2021-22 season.

Former Ysgol Dyffryn Taf pupil Davies has played 170 matches for the Scarlets since making his debut in 2006 and is one of the most decorated centres in international rugby having won 91 caps for Wales and represented the Lions in the Test series in Australia 2013 and New Zealand in 2017.

It will be his second stint wearing the Scarlets armband having been a co-captain along with Rob McCusker in 2013.

‘Foxy’ takes the reins from hooker Ken Owens who led the Scarlets for a record-equalling seven successive seasons.

“Jon is one of the most respected players in the game, someone with a huge amount of experience at all levels,” said Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel

“He has been a leader amongst our group for a number of years now and certainly since I have been here his leadership qualities have been there for all to see, on and off the training field.

“Foxy is the ultimate professional – when he speaks people listen. The way he conducts himself is an example to every player in the squad.

“He has been a big part of this club for a long time; he has grown up in the region, played his junior rugby here and it is clear that wearing the Scarlets jersey means a huge amount to him.”

Paying tribute to Davies’s predecessor Owens, Peel added: “Ken has been a fantastic leader for us over the last seven years and will continue to have a huge part to play in the leadership of this group.”

Davies, who captained Wales during the recent summer internationals in Cardiff, said: “It is a massive honour to be handed the Scarlets captaincy, you only have to look at the captain’s board to see so many great players and icons of the game who have led the club.

“I am fortunate that there will be a strong leadership group around me – British & Irish Lions and experienced Wales internationals who have enjoyed success at domestic and Test level. Those players also know there is a hard-working, driven group of youngsters pushing them for the jersey. There is a really exciting mix to the squad.”

Davies added: “Winning the PRO12 title with the Scarlets four years ago remains one of the highlights of my career and there is a real ambition and hunger among the players and coaching group to reach those levels again.

“There has been a good buzz about pre-season, the boys have worked really hard and we’re all looking forward to the start of the new URC season in Edinburgh on Saturday.

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Scarlets appoint Phil John as Academy coach

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FORMER prop Phil John is back at the Scarlets having been appointed to the role of Academy skills coach.

John made 330 Scarlets appearances over 17 seasons and holds the record for the most Scarlets matches played in the regional era.

Since hanging up his playing boots following his final game against Glasgow in 2016, he has worked with the RGC 1404 Academy and alongside another ex-Scarlet Mark Jones with the Premiership team in North Wales.

He also has experience coaching with the Llanelli RFC Premiership side and as an assistant to Danny Wilson for the Scarlets.

John, who started out on a rugby apprenticeship scheme at Stradey Park, replaces Emyr Phillips who becomes the Scarlets transition coach overseeing the academy players who are training with the senior side.

“It’s good to be back at Parc y Scarlets and I’m looking forward to working with a talented group of young players who have bright futures in the game,” said John.

“When you look at the players who were in the Academy five years ago when I was here, they are now starting week in week out for the Scarlets, it is great to see the journeys they have been on.

“The Scarlets Academy has a proud tradition of being a production line for the senior side and I’m excited by this opportunity to help make sure that continues.”

Scarlets Development Pathway Manager Kevin George added: “For us, this appointment was about getting the balance right in the coaching group with Emyr having been promoted to oversee the transition players.

“We had a lot of interest in the post and Phil, with his experience working with academies and the commitment he gave to North Wales, came out very strongly. We are delighted to have him on board to help nurture the next generation of Scarlets.”

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