Rugby Union: Llanelli's gamble brings reward as Griffiths steps on the pedal

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The Independent Online
ROBERT COLE

Llanelli 11 Cardiff 10

Welsh rugby has had little reason to thank rugby league down the years, but Llanelli should be eternally grateful to St Helens for what they did for Jonathan Griffiths. The former Wales scrum-half returned to Stradey Park this season after six winters in the professional ranks, and at first struggled to fit back into the union style. Llanelli played him at flanker, at scrum-half and finally in the outside-half role, in which he featured so often for St Helens.

It was a gamble by the Llanelli coach, Gareth Jenkins, to give Griffiths the No 10 jersey for this Swalec Cup quarter-final, yet it paid dividends as Griffiths upstaged his former Welsh Rugby League half-back partner, Jonathan Davies, to help the Scarlets reach the semi-finals.

Neath, Newport and Pontypridd will join Llanelli in the draw today - and Llanelli remain in the hunt for a 13th cup final appearance.

Despite a poor debut at outside half against Dunvant 10 days earlier, Griffiths revealed his class as an all-round footballer when he fitted in perfectly with Llanelli's running style. So much so, in fact, that he brought the crowd to their feet with two stirring runs in the second half. The first, a typical head-down rugby league charge, set up the position from which Cardiff gave away a penalty, which enabled Justin Thomas to kick the winning score, while the second was a scintillating 70 yards, firing the final nail into the Cardiff coffin.

Cardiff were forced to soak up 15 minutes of incessant pressure at the start of the game, and having weathered that storm, must have felt confident about recording a double over their West Wales rivals, having beaten them in the League in September.

A Jonathan Davies penalty at the end of that early period gave the visitors further reason to smile, although Thomas tied the scores with a 30-metre shot four minutes later.

That great try opportunist, Ieuan Evans, finally put Llanelli ahead two minutes after the break when he latched on to a well-placed kick ahead by Neil Boobyer, but Cardiff hit back with an Andrew Lewis score from a close-range lineout. Davies converted to give his side the lead once more.

Then that Griffiths charge allowed Thomas to regain the initiative for the home side 15 minutes from time and Llanelli were able to hold out for another famous cup triumph.

Llanelli: Try I Evans; Penalties Thomas (2).

Cardiff: Try A Lewis; Conversion J Davies; Penalty J Davies.

Cardiff: I Jones; S Hill, M Hall, S John, N Walker; J Davies, A Moore; A Lewis, J Humphreys, L Mustoe, J Wakeford, D Jones, E Lewis, H Taylor (capt), V Davies.

Llanelli: J Thomas; I Evans, M Wintle, N Boobyer, W Proctor; J Griffiths, R Moon; R Evans, R McBryde, S John, P Davies (capt), P Jones, M Perego, C Wyatt, G Jones.

Referee: D R Davies (WRU).

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