Botica has mixed debut for Llanelli

Llanelli 10 Bath 10
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The Independent Online
The traditional rag doll, clad in the Scarlet of this 100-year-old fixture's most recent victors, was strung from the crossbar as of old, but there was more than a hint of rugby's new age about the match.

Taking his place in Llanelli's No 10 shirt was Frano Botica, capped seven times by the All Blacks, the last in 1989 before his conversion to rugby league. The tug-of-war over Botica's union contract was settled in the dead of a Cardiff night, at 12.45 on Tuesday morning to be precise. Orrell officials received the undertaking of around the pounds 60,000 sum they were looking for from their Llanelli counterparts.

All of which gave Botica, by virtue of his brief stint in the Courage League this season, the air of an Anglo-Welsh transient which somehow suited the stuttering start made by this Anglo-Welsh Cup. His first contribution was to present Bath with possession with a sliced penalty kick which failed to find the required touch. That was in the fourth minute of an opening quarter of undiluted Bath pressure in the Scarlets' half.

Yet Bath, whose depth of resources allowed them four international forwards in what was essentially a second-choice team, made no serious dents in the home defence. With a back three of Henry Paul, his white boots picked out by the floodlights, Jason Robinson and Jon Sleightholme, that seemed unlikely to remain so, but the whole Bath back line were flawed in their running lines and handling, and Llanelli grew in stature and confidence.

Botica missed one chance to give them the lead, when his 27th-minute penalty fell just short, but he made no mistake nine minutes later when Bath were offside in their own 22.

The wing Garan Evans darted into the corner for a Llanelli try three minutes into the second half and Botica converted from the left touchline to huge acclaim.

Bath's response was a long time coming but come it did with two tries from set scrums. Half-back Charlie Harrison wriggled over for the first and the Scot Eric Peters burrowed over for the second with six minutes remaining.

Two Botica penalty goal attempts came mighty close to winning it for the Scarlets but neither had the range.

Llanelli: S Jones (M McCarthy, 75); A Richards, M Wintle, N Boobyer, G Evans; F Botica, J Griffiths; R Jones, R McBryde (capt), H Williams- Jones, V Cooper, S Ford, M Perego (H Jenkins, 27), C Wyatt, P Morris.

Bath: H Paul; J Robinson, J Ewens, M Perry, J Sleightholme; R Butland, C Harrison; K Yates, G French, V Ubogu, W James (M Haag, 40), N Redman, A Robinson (capt), E Peters, R Bryan.

Referee: H Davies (Bethesda).

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