Rugby Union: Llanelli open the floodgates

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Llanelli. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .72

Newport . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

IRELAND have left Welsh rugby in deepest mourning but, as the recriminations over that abject defeat continue, at Stradey Park they are actually celebrating. Last night their thumping defeat of Newport left Llanelli a point behind the Heineken League leaders, Cardiff and Swansea.

There are five fixtures to play and such is Llanelli's try count - the deciding factor if teams are level - that the merest slip by the other two will let them through. Another dozen in this game took them to a handsome 92 compared with Cardiff's 67 and Swansea's 56.

In fact, the Scarlets' season has tended to fall below the expectations created when they last played Newport, and amassed 13 tries in winning 79-10 at Rodney Parade: the heaviest defeat in the Black-and-Ambers' mainly distinguished history.

Llanelli could not do the impossible by keeping up that sort of strike-rate, but their inconsistency has long been a cause of concern for Gareth Jenkins, the coach who will retire at the end of the season in order to concentrate on his role at national level.

As he is already Wales's assistant coach, he has to bear his part of the responsibility for the Irish and Scots calamities, but he might well reflect, especially after last night, that Wales would be better off with more from his own club. None of the four Scarlets who faced Ireland started against Newport but even so Llanelli won with all the panache that Wales so notably lack.

For one thing, they have players - forwards as well as backs - who can give and take a pass, work out options and have the vision to look two or three steps ahead. On this and previous evidence, you could state a good case for the inclusion of Nigel Davies at centre, Rupert Moon at scrum-half, David Fox at hooker and Lyn Jones at open-side flanker when the Welsh team for Paris are announced on Friday.

As the French will be somewhat less accommodating than Newport, they may quietly prefer to sit this one out in the hope of preferment in more auspicious circumstances. Alas they may have done their cause too much good for their own good. If the Llanelli pack had supplied some more of the ball, the margin would not have borne thinking about.

Still, as soon as Paul Jones had broken the duck with the first try, the result was not in question. Llanelli went straight back for a try by Wayne Proctor from the subsequent kick-off and by half-time had added more from Lloyd Davies, Lyn Jones and Mark Perego.

The principal difference was that Llanelli, like England against Scotland, had the precious gift of pace. Though Newport's Mark Roderick angled off a scrum for a try to add to Jason Williams's drop goal the procession to the other end was never interrupted for long and Llanelli added seven of their own in the second half.

Llanelli: Tries Proctor 2, L Davies 2, Quinnell 2, P Jones, L Jones, Perego, Wintle, E Lewis, Moon; Conversions Stephens 6. Newport: Try Roderick; Drop goal Williams; Conversion: Williams.

Llanelli: I Jones (M Wintle, 40); L Davies, N Boobyer, N Davies, W Proctor; C Stephens, R Moon (capt); D Joseph, D Fox (A Lamerton, 72), L Delaney, P Davies, P Jones, M Perego, S Quinnell, L Jones (E Lewis, 40).

Newport: J Westward; I Jeffries, D Rees, R Bidgood (capt), A Lewis; J Williams, M Roderick; S Duggan, A Peacock (G Hicks, 48), A Dibble, M Voyle, D Waters, A Carter, G Pugh, K Withey.

Referee: R Yeman (Port Talbot).