Rugby Union: Evans lifts the gloom at Llanelli: Welsh round-up

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The Independent Online
IF THERE is one thing that the Welsh captain, Ieuan Evans, really excels at it is scoring tries and he launched the new Heineken League season in style with a hat-trick as Llanelli beat the reigning champions, Swansea, 35-23.

Forget all the talk about gloom and doom and financial ruin at Llanelli. After a summer of discontent they look set to give the Welsh game a boost with their traditional, free-flowing brand of rugby.

To win the First Division title, not to mention the pounds 27,000 top prize, aspiring champions must beat teams like Swansea. It was the perfect start for the Scarlets and banished any thoughts of lingering problems.

It took just four minutes for Evans to make his mark as he ran in a classic wing try from the 22. There were two more in the second half as he took his League aggregate record to 45 in this, the fifth season of the Heineken-sponsored championship.

Swansea, who were beaten three times on their pre-season tour of South America, recovered well from that early setback and their own wing pair of Sean Marshall and Simon Davies ran in tries that helped them to a 20-17 interval lead.

But with the wind at their backs, and Evans on their side, Llanelli were quick to regain the lead and eventually ran out winners by four tries to two.

While Swansea were going down to defeat at Stradey Park, their First Division neighbours Dunvant were beating Newport 16-6.

Paul Hopkins and Warren Lloyd provided them with their tries while the outside-half, Mark Thomas, kicked two penalties. All Newport's points came from the boot of Byron Hayward. Another outside-half in the points was the Welsh No 10, Neil Jenkins.

Needing just 12 points to become the first player to reach 800 in the League he helped himself to 20 as Pontypridd ran out 30-25 victors over Pontypool.

Jenkins landed five penalties, a conversion and a drop goal, while Greg Prosser and Paul John added tries. Pontypool had the satisfaction of outscoring last season's third- placed side by three tries to two and showed a vast improvement on last winter.

Abertillery, the First Division newcomers, led their Gwent rivals Newbridge 13-7 late into the game. But a try by the Newbridge scrum-half, Steve Fealey, converted by his half-back partner, Jeremy Lloyd, edged Newbridge in front. A late Lloyd penalty made it 17-13 and put a dampener on the home side's return to the top flight.