Rugby Union: Hayward humbles poor Vale

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The Independent Online
Ebbw Vale 3

Llanelli 42

BYRON HAYWARD returned to his old stamping ground at Eugene Cross Park last night and reminded Ebbw Vale just what they had lost in letting him go to Llanelli.

The Welsh international scored 22 points as Llanelli got back to winning ways in the Premier Division play-offs and opened up a nine-point lead over Pontypridd at the top of the table, picking up a bonus point for their five tries.

The Scarlets were always in firm command, Salesi Finau and No. 8 Hywel Jenkins getting their final tries that killed off the home side.

With four matches to go the title is looking more and more likely to end up at Stradey Park - and with it the No. 1 ranking in the European Cup.

Even before the teams locked horns there was a major controversy, the public address announcer launching a tirade against the Welsh Rugby Union's plans to find a place in Europe for returning rebels Cardiff.

However, on the field all the early talking came from Hayward as he answered the club who had released him in a cost-cutting exercise in emphatic style. The fly-half had his old side back-pedalling with a pin-point kick to the corner and then started inflicting even more painful damage with a penalty goal after just four minutes.

There was even better to follow for the Llanelli faithful, full-back Craig Warlow slicing open the home defence and Hayward appearing in support to race over for a try wide out that he converted himself.

Llanelli, still smarting from their defeat at Neath in mid-week, dominated in all areas but went through a spell where they simply could not find the finishing touch to complement their superiority.

But Hayward was never going to be a bit-part player and he coolly dropped a goal from 40 metres for a 13-points contribution that had Ebbw Vale rueing not taking their few chances in similar clinical fashion.

Ebbw Vale hardly had time to start raising a sweat at the start of the second half before they found themselves a further seven points adrift, prop John Davies initiating the move, No. 8 Hywel Jenkins twice involved and flanker Dave Hodges the seventh pair of hands and the finisher of a scintillating try that was all about angles and quick handling.

Hayward, inevitably, converted from wide out and quickly added another penalty goal and, although fly-half Jason Strange belatedly got Ebbw Vale off the mark after 50 minutes, it was already as good as over as a contest.

Just to ram home their dominance, centre Salesi Finau powered through three tacklers for their third try, Hayward converting.

Ebbw Vale: S Taumalolo; D Manley, J Hawker, J Funnell, J Williams; J Strange (C Arnold, 68), D Llewellyn (R Jones, 68); I Thomas, L Phillips (A Peacock, 66), A Metcalfe, C Billen, K Faletau, N Budgett (M Spiller, 44), M Jones (capt, L Banks, 55), G Green.

Llanelli: C Warlow; W Proctor, S Finau, G John, G Evans; B Hayward, R Moon (A Thomas, 77); P Booth, R McBryde (capt, M Thomas, 71), J Davies, A Copsey (C Wyatt, 58), M Voyle (V Cooper, 74), D Hodges, H Jenkins, I Boobyer.

Referee: N Whitehouse (Swansea)