Davies silences his critics

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The Independent Online
Llanelli 54

Abertillery 13

Rumours that Phil Davies had passed his international sell-by date would appear to be somewhat premature following the big man's committed and athletic display in leading the Scarlets to Saturday's much-needed victory.

A big man for the big occasion, Davies lost his place in the Welsh pack for the Test against the Springboks last month when the selectors finally gave the Cardiff giant, Derwyn Jones, his fling in the second row.

Jones proved an instant hit alongside the new skipper, Gareth Llewellyn, and many people felt the 6ft 10in youngster's exciting debut could prove the death knell for Davies's illustrious international career.

If that was supposed to be the case then someone obviously forgot to tell Davies. In his first league outing since 12 November, and his 296th appearance for Llanelli, he tore around the pitch as if he was playing at Stradey Park for the first time.

The acting captain also got in on the try act, crossing for one of his side's nine scores, and the on-looking selectors will have been much heartened by what they saw. With full fitness restored, Davies remains a certainty for the Welsh World Cup squad.

The other heartening news for the national selectors was the form of the right wing, Wayne Proctor. The rugby headlines in Wales this season have been dominated by the horrific run of injuries suffered by the Welsh back line - Ieuan Evans (broken leg), Mike Rayer (broken leg), Nigel Davies (fractured cheekbone), Nigel Walker (knee operation) and Rupert Moon (broken wrist) - yet few have noted the consistency of Proctor.

He waged a personal war on Abertillery in the second half as he sped away for four tries, three of them in a 12-minute burst, as Llanelli rediscovered some of their best form.

His example was enthusiastically followed by his fellow wing, Garan Evans, who ran in his first league hat-trick, and the brave battlers from Gwent were sunk in a sea of second-half points.

At least they fared better than they did in 1991, when they conceded 13 tries in a 68-9 defeat at Stradey, and they looked like a side well capable of staying in the First Division.

Victory for the Scarlets also went a long way to ensuring they will not lose their top-flight status after a run of three successive defeats and the deduction of two league points. The return of Davies provided much needed ballast and now the Llanelli ship looks set fare once again.

Llanelli: Tries Proctor 4, G Evans 3, R Evans, Davies; Conversions Stephens 2, Strange; Penalty Stephens. Abertillery: Try M Williams; Conversion M Williams; Penalties M Williams 2.

Llanelli: J Strange; W Proctor, N Boobyer, M Wintle, G Evans; C Stephens, H Harries; R Evans, R McBryde (P Young, 74), H Williams-Jones, P Davies (capt), L Williams, C Quinnell, I Hembrow, A McPherson (A Lamerton, 55).

Abertillery: A Price; M Williams, R Richards, S Connors, A Richards; K Price, M Rossitor (capt); J Mainwaring, C Milkins, B Cripps, J Cicero, M Griffiths, G Gladwyn, J Williams, M Picton.

Referee: P Rees (Aberystwyth).