Discards launch quick riposte

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The Independent Online
Llanelli 18

Bridgend 11

Phil Davies could be going to South Africa next month after all - but not with the brief he had hoped for.

Davies, Wales's most capped forward, was one of the celebrated casualties of last week's World Cup clear-out. But now, by way of some consolation for missing out on the main event, he has been asked about his availability to play for a World XV in the Memorial Match for the late Dr Danie Craven that will precede the serious business.

However, the most immediate and pressing issue for the Llanelli lock is to help maintain the Scarlets' tradition as the cup specialists after they booked their 16th semi-final appearance, thanks to their comeback against Bridgend at Stradey Park.

Davies played an influential role in hauling Llanelli back from the brink of seeing their entire season collapse as they surged through with two superb tries from other wounded Scarlets. Ieuan Evans, stripped of the national captaincy, extended his cup try-scoring record to 47 with a vintage effort and then Nigel Davies, who will not even be on the flight to the Republic, forced his way over for the other.

It added up to something of an injustice for an inventive Bridgend team as they clearly felt the backlash of the sweeping national selection changes, which saw Scarlets at the sharp end of many of the demotions.

"I am not bitter about failing to make the World Cup squad, their decision merely brought forward my international retirement by a couple of months, and now I will give my all to try and help Llanelli finish the season on a high note," Davies, who has 47 caps, said.

But the chance of Llanelli moving just a match away from a 13th final appearance looked remote as Bridgend started with the greater pace, power and purpose, with Robert Howley inspirational at scrum-half, and Gareth Jones and Jason Ball providing regular midfield threats behind a pack that excelled in supplying quick ball.

Two penalty goals from outside-half Matthew Lewis and a try from Ian Greenslade, courtesy of a searing Ball break, served to belatedly spur Llanelli to move up a gear, with young flanker Gwyn Jones outstanding.

Ieuan Evans profited from Garan Evans coming from the left wing to join an attack in midfield and then Davies forced his way over before the replacement outside-half, Colin Stephens, provided the icing on the cake, and confirmation of their presence in today's semi-final draw, with a late drop goal.

Llanelli: Tries I Evans, N Davies; Conversion Strange; Penalty Strange; Drop goal Stephens. Bridgend: Try I Greenslade; Penalties Lewis 2.

Llanelli: W Proctor; I Evans, M Wintle, N Davies G Evans; J Strange (C Stephens, 57), R Moon (capt, H Harries, 19); H Williams-Jones, R McBryde, S John, P Davies, A Copsey, C Quinnell, J Williams, G Jones.

Bridgend: C Bradshaw; G Webbe (M Back, 76), G Jones, J Ball, G Wilkins; M Lewis, R Howley (capt); D Francis, I Greenslade, S Gale, S Jenkins, E Williams, J Purnell, A Williams (N Jones, 74), J Forster.

Referee: D Bevan (Clydach).