Rugby Union: Madden's late show saves the Scarlets

Ebbw Vale 12 Llanelli 19
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The Independent Online
MARTYN MADDEN was the toast of Welsh rugby over the weekend after he rescued the 27th Swalec Cup final from ending in a bore draw at Bristol City's ground.

Until the Llanelli tight-head prop found the energy to race 25 metres to score two minutes from time the odds were on the final finishing without a try for the first time in its history.

That Madden, the 25-year-old Cardiff-born player on loan to the Scarlets from Penzance and Newlyn, was the only try scorer in the game spoke volumes for the standard, but filled the coffers of one lucky punter from his home city.

The unnamed man walked into Jack Brown's bookies in Cardiff on Saturday morning and put down pounds 15 on Madden to be the first player to score a try in the final. It was a wise choice which scooped him pounds 1,005.

Cup finals have a habit of being remembered for one man's action and, allied to his try, Madden's mouth also earned him banner headlines. Describing his try which, to give him credit, was rather special for a member of the front row union, he told the TV cameras that he had "shimmied" past the wing, "outpaced" the full back to reach the line.

"That's showbiz," was the final flourish from Madden before both he and his grateful team-mates burst into laughter in their jubilant dressing- room.

On a more serious note, Madden's try and overall performance should this week earn him a two-year contract with the Scarlets. More importantly, his try made it a record 10th win in 13 cup final appearances for Llanelli and rescued their season.

"The players knew we had under-achieved this season and that the whole town hadn't been happy with the fact we didn't qualify for the top tier in Europe," the Llanelli coach, Gareth Jenkins, said. "Winning the cup has saved our season."

While Llanelli once again confirmed their title of "cup kings", Ebbw Vale left their first final appearance kicking themselves. They dominated the game, could and should have won the biggest prize in their history. Three unusual penalty misses from their dead-eyed dick outside-half Byron Hayward did not help, although neither did the fact they were unable to work the ball down their back line during their periods of dominance.

In their Tongan full-back Siua Taumololo they had the most potent attacking weapon on the field, as well as the nominated man of the match, yet he was confined to a handful of counter-attacking opportunities, instead of spearheading first or later phase attacks.

Only once were Ebbw ahead during the game, following Hayward's third penalty to add to an earlier drop goal, but it was a short-lived experience for them. A minute later Craig Warlow landed his fourth penalty to make it 12-12 and there was all to play for in the final 10 minutes.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man and it was Madden who stole the glory with his remarkable burst in support of a Rupert Moon break. It was Madden's match but a pretty poor ending to a season of unrivalled discontent.

Ebbw Vale: Penalties Hayward 3; Drop goal Hayward. Llanelli: Try Madden; Conversion Warlow; Penalties Warlow 4.

Ebbw Vale: S Taumololo; A Harries, J Hawker (J Strange, 75), J Funnell, L Woodard; B Hayward, D Llewellyn; A Phillips, L Phillips (S Jones, 76), M Wilson, C Billen, K Faletau, R Collins, M Jones, K Jones (capt).

Llanelli: D Williams; W Proctor, N Boobyer (M Wintle, 63), N Davies, G Evans; C Warlow, R Moon; A Jones, R McBryde (capt), M Madden, V Cooper, M Voyle, C Wyatt (A Gibbs, 63), H Jenkins, I Jones.

Referee: C Thomas (Bryncoch).