Rugby Union: Llanelli weather stormy Samoans

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Llanelli 23

Western Samoa 15

There have been dog days in the past but surely nothing quite as savage as this. Two ugly episodes in the second half, when referee John Pearson was engulfed on each occasion by angry Western Samoan players, threatened to spoil what should have been a glorious afternoon for the Scarlets at Stradey Park.

That they won was down entirely to some not surprisingly dogged defence and a few characteristic moments of inspiration which produced Llanelli's three tries, two of them for left wing Garan Evans. The Western Samoans threw everything at their opponents, including punches. Mr Pearson maintained control, barely, and when emotions spilled over in the 60th and 65th minutes, he chose to produce yellow cards.

In each case it was a member of the Samoan front row who offended; first the hooker, Trevor Leota, was booked for an apparent high tackle on the Llanelli captain Ieuan Evans, then tighthead prop George Latu received his warning for stamping.

Stradey has seen some proud moments against touring sides since the 1888 visit by the New Zealand Maoris - yesterday's did not quite come up to the mark, but the win meant that in 31 confrontations the Scarlets have now won 12 - among them the historic 9-3 win over the 1972 New Zealand All Blacks. Western Samoa are not in that class but they certainly proved a handful yesterday from the moment they performed the Siva Tau - their traditional war dance. the equivalent of the All Blacks' Haka

Llanelli certainly have problems off the field - the local newspaper, the Llanelli Star, yesterday joined in the "Save Our Scarlets" campaign, calling for a special general meeting to question the club about its failed rescue package through a Leeds-based financial advisor and a Pembrokeshire caravan- park owner. It was left to the Welsh Rugby Union to step in with a last-minute cash lifeline to keep the club afloat.

With such gloomy things hanging over them on-field performances matter even more. And there were some lighter moments yesterday. Notably the Samoans' second try, the result of a fortuitous interception by the right wing, Afato Sooalo, who then scorched some 80 yards for the touchdown. Neil Boobyer, whose pass was snapped up so smartly, could well have been distracted by the Labrador which had strayed on to the pitch. The dog hounded Sooalo upfield and gave him a congratulatory lick when he had scored.

Perhaps if Frano Botica, playing his eighth game since joining from Orrell, had landed more of his kicks at goal it would have been a very different tale. But Botica had the misfortune to hit the crossbar once and the uprights twice. Llanelli had to weather a fair few squalls as the Samoans thundered at them, rucking fast and spinning the ball wide.

The image of the friendly South Sea Islanders was certainly shattered. At Stradey they were head hunting as the numerous high tackles illustrated.

They do not like losing and this was the second defeat of their 11-match tour. Having only just eased past the students of Cambridge University they had no doubt been told to get their act together. There were some good scenes. What a shame they were upstaged by needless niggle.

Llanelli: W Proctor; I Evans (capt), T Davies, N Boobyer, G Evans; F Botica, R Moon; R Evans, J Hyatt, H Williams-Jones, S Ford, V Cooper, H Jenkins, I Jones, P Morris.

Western Samoa: V Patu; A Sooalo, G Leaupepe, T Fanalua, V Fa'aofo; E Va'a, J Filemu; B Reidy, T Leota, G Latu, L Tone, M Birtwistle (capt), S Taala, J Paramore, I Feaunati.

Referee: J Pearson (Yarm, Cleveland).