Rugby Union: Llanelli put the loss behind them

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The Independent Online
Llanelli ran in eight tries as they began the new Welsh National League season with a 52-23 thrashing of Neath in the Premier Division at Stradey Park.

Watched by their former captain Ieuan Evans, who joined Bath on Friday after 13 years at Stradey, Llanelli made light work of a makeshift Neath side which had lost three international forwards - Barry Williams, John Davies and Steve Williams - during the summer.

Neil Boobyer, the former Wales centre, ran in two tries in the first quarter as the Scarlets set out to ensure no repeat of their defeats in last season's opening two league games. Paul Morris, the home No 8, touched down between Boobyer's double and Frano Botica converted all three tries to put Llanelli 21-0 ahead midway through the first half.

Neath cut the deficit when their scrum-half Patrick Horgan made a lightning break from a scrum near the halfway line to set up Adam Palfrey for a try which made it 26-11 at the interval. But Llanelli hit back in the second half with further tries by Wayne Proctor, Steve Ford, Rupert Moon and Iwan Jones to secure a bonus point. It looked as though Llanelli would make it a full house of five points, but a try by Neath's Steve Rees a minute before the end left the Scarlets one try short of a second bonus point.

Afterwards, Evans explained his move to Bath, saying: "I will always be a Scarlet, but it was a good deal all round and I had to go. Llanelli wanted the money, Bath wanted me to play on the wing for them and I got a good contract out of it. But I wish Llanelli all the best." Evans, a veteran of three Lions tours and capped a record 71 times by Wales, will make his Bath debut in the Heineken European Cup tie against Pontypridd on 6 September. He will be on his honeymoon for the first two Allied Dunbar Premiership matches against Newcastle and Harlequins.

Doddie Weir aims to prove his fitness in time for Newcastle's visit to Bath in a pre-season "friendly" against West Hartlepool at Brierton Lane today - less than three months since suffering a knee injury on the Lions tour. The injury, caused by Mpumalanga's Marius Bosman, was so severe that the Scottish lock was told that his career was under threat. However, Newcastle's medical staff and the fitness specialist Steve Black have worked with Weir so well that an operation proved unnecessary.

Alan Tait, Newcastle's Lions centre, misses the game with a knee injury, but the former All Blacks back-row forward Mike Brewer, West Hartlepool's director of rugby, fields three new signings - the Western Samoan scrum- half Tu Nu'ialitia, the Ireland Under-21 full-back Emmett Farrell and the Wellington lock Russell Schrader.

Meanwhile, the English league champions Wasps have signed West Hartlepool's flanker John Ions, just before the registration deadline for the Heineken European Cup.

Ions, 22, a product of Bradford Grammar School and Durham University, has just moved south after completing his law studies and is due to become an articled clerk at a London law practice. "John is a very hard and extremely promising back-row player," said Wasps' director of rugby Nigel Melville.